Keith Akins wrote a letter to the Ku Klux Klan [KKK] when he was a graduate student at the University of Florida complaining that the only scholarships available were reserved for minority students, asking the group if it could do anything about the situation. He also went around to the gun shops in Gainesville asking if they had any KKK connections. Pretty soon, he was contacted about one of their meetings. This is how Akins became a member of the KKK.
“I wanted to get as deep inside as I could so I could fuck them up,” Akins said.
He did not join the KKK because he shared their ideologies; rather, Akins had decided to write his dissertation for his Ph. D in Anthropology on white supremacy groups in the U.S.
Akins spent three years with the KKK, and spoke to UM students about his experiences as part of the No Place for Hate Campaign on campus this week. Students had the opportunity to ask many questions of Akins, ranging from the KKK’s justifications for its actions to Akin’s own feelings concerning his involvement with the group.
“Hate groups provide acceptance for people who need this,” Akins said. “It offers a sense of power.”
At one point, Akins lifted his shirtsleeve and showed the audience a tattoo of the Confederate flag on his forearm.
“If I didn’t get this tattoo, they wouldn’t have let me in,” he said.
Akins described “Hitler birthday parties” and white supremacy codes and symbols, and these groups’ desires for “Future Aryan Warriors.” He talked about the KKK’s fear of the non-white population, and their target groups: “non-Whites, non-Christians, and non-heterosexuals.”
“There was never a moment that I was not aware that I would be killed on the spot if I said the wrong thing,” Akins said.
Since he left the KKK, and the group discovered that he was the person who infiltrated, Akins has received numerous death threats, been run off the road, chased through malls, and had his office vandalized, among other things. However, he said that the entire experience and the sacrifices he made to do his study were worth it.
“It was mind-boggling,” Akins said. “It was astonishing that these people could live right next door to you for years and you’d never know it. They made me hate them.”
Megha Garg can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.