The Moral Imperative (& Privilege) of New Yorkers Helping Refugees/When the KKK Persecuted Greeks in America
In my last ten days on Kos Island, Greece, it became clear what the most effective argument for me was when asked, sometimes rudely, by a cop, army officer or restaurant owner etc.: Why are you here? To help them?
The answer quite simply has been: I’m from New York City.
In saying this, I can also say that it has been one of the few times in my life outside of the US – in the Middle East – that one can perhaps lay claim to a kind of nationalistic moral high-ground, or more precisely, a compelling argument about why my NYC/american “origins” bestow a certain right in “helping” refugees and convey an historic experience which lends legitimacy to current efforts.
Indeed, since the 2003 Iraq Invasion, especially (there are many other example), living in the Middle East as an american has often meant any arguments that somehow fall back on the idea and history of being an American are immediately going to be counter-productive (whether they are righteous or not is a different questions).
Even for the most right wing of folks here i.e. Golden Dawn, some small shop owners and the security folks, the mere mention of NYC stops them in their tracks. After all, “my” city accepted, discriminated against, cheated, loved and housed perhaps millions of greek economic and political refugees over the last century and a half.
If the argument goes further – about why south asians are “dirty” or blacks from Africa are dangerous or Muslim Syrians are dangerous etc – one can fall back on the exact same arguments made against greeks by my own fellow countrymen a century ago. Specifically the KKK:
Read it here: http://www.greece.org/AHEPA/99000his.html
Forgotten history: The Klan vs. Americans of Hellenic heritage in an Era of Hate
An Article of Significance published in The Hellenic Chronicle in July 23,1997.
Ahepa emerges 75 years ago to win the battle against bigotry
By JAMES S. SCOFIELD
It was 1922. Americans of Hellenic heritage were suffering personal and economic intimidation orchestrated by the revived Ku Klux Klan. It was time for them to unify and organize, to protect and defend life and livelihood.
The widespread and often violent discrimination against immigrants from Greece is an almost forgotten page of American history. This is probably because of their subsequent success and the great accomplishments of their descendants. Very few persons today, Hellenic or not, are even vaguely aware of the massive continental strength of the Klan of the 1920s and its intensive persecution of foreign-born Greeks, including those who had chosen to become American citizens. They do not know how deeply the evil shadows of bigotry, hatred and intolerance cast their malignant darkness over North America. Perhaps it is time to remind them. The newly-reorganized KKK rampaged against frightened immigrants and helpless minorities throughout the United States. It dominated politics in states in both the North and South. In Canada, its dangerous wicked ways were transplanted and flourished, especially in the western provinces.
An estimated three million rnilitant hooded Kiansmen stalked across our continent, burning crosses and spawning terror.
During its reign of power, the Klan elected 16 U.S. Senators, 11 Governors and an undetermined large number of Congressmen, both Republican and Democrat. It report- edly exerted considerable influence in the White House.
Klan organizations ruled local politics in the major cities of Dallas,Denver, Indianapolis and Portland, Oregon, as well as in such smaller communities as Anaheim, California; El Paso, Texas; Youngstown, Ohio and Portland, Maine.
In 1922, California and Oregon voters elected Klan-endorsed gubernatorial candidates. Then in 1924, a Klan candidate won the governorship in Kansas. The same year, the Klan endorsed U.S. Senate winners in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Oklahoma and Texas. It also won the gubernatorial contests in five of these six states, barely losing in Texas.
At U.S. election polls, Kiansmen passed out cards which crudely and defiantly declared:
When cotton grows on the fig tree
And alfalfa hangs on the rose
When the aliens run the United States
And the Jews grow a straight nose
When the Pope is praised by everyone
In the land of Uncle Sam
And a Greek is elected President
THEN – the Ku Klux won’t be worth a dam.
Meanwhile, embattled but visionary Greek immigrant leaders met on July 26, 1922, in Atlanta to form the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association, now better known as the Order of Ahepa. Not by coincidence, Atlanta was the home of the national Imperial Headquarters of the Klan.
Read on here: http://www.greece.org/AHEPA/99000his.html