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Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 5.19.11

Whos the Target?

The Klans influence can still be felt

By Mark Harris

Laura Archera Huxley, musician, psychologist, filmmaker, wife of Aldous Huxley, once wrote a book first published in the 1960s called You Are Not The Target. In it, she counsels that one should not feel overly defensive at the actions of others, because many people are really too concerned or preoccupied with their own problems to be concerned with you. When they do seem to strike out at you personally, it might not really be about you but about what you represent, or who you remind them of. If you are targeted by an institution, it may be about what you represent in terms of a truth the institution doesnt want revealed, but is in fact obvious ã if not obvious to the mainstream, at least to those who receive the brunt of the mainstream institutions violence.

I try to remember this when asked to speak or act for others whose voices are silenced. When revealing facts certain institutions dont want revealed I try not to be quixotic when lifting up Klan hoods using my pen (allegedly mightier than the burning cross/sword). I expect that reactions will ensue. I try not to be a stationary target.

One of the challenges is doing nothing, except to continue with a thankless task. Thanks are rare, the more common reaction: It is less risky to attack messengers than to address unjust institutions whose uncomfortable truths are revealed. A colleague informed me one of the tar-baby name-callers is now on the state ethics board for therapists, which speaks more about the institution than the person. I have degrees in a field that I was raised by activists to be an activist in ã a field that named my ancestors as mentally ill because they tried to escape slavery.

I question my sanity in choosing to live in a state that banned free African-Americans. Im Native living in a county named for an Indian fighter. I choose to live in a city and larger community where nearly 90 years after the historic publication of the Ku Klux Klan membership list, prominent community members can influence institutions to continue to have no public mention, or display of that list. Why? If the Klan actually did die in 1924, why not show how far weve come since then? If the UO-employed Klansmen actually lost their influence, why ban the son of the Portland Urban League founder from living on campus in the 50s because he was black? Why were crosses burnt on the lawn of the sorority of the white woman he dated and eventually married if the Klan was dead? De Norval Unthank graduated, designed many buildings, raised children and has a street named after him.

The Klans influence has not died, but mutated ã a fact well known to many outside the mainstream, whether I write or not. I got bored with the silence. Act on the message, dont shoot the messenger. Im not the target.

Mark Harris is an instructor and substance abuse prevention coordinator at LCC.