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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Former Klansmen apologizes to Rep. John Lewis

I twittered this CNN video on Sunday, but I think this story deserves it's own post.

And we can look at this write-up from the Tribune's blog, Exploring Race:
Elwin Wilson’s story is one of transformation. That’s why it resonates so much. It’s a story of changing one’s self and in a way that’s neither instantaneous nor painless---but it reminds us that change is possible.

By now you’ve probably heard about the meeting that Wilson, a former member of the KKK who lives in Rock Hill, S.C., had earlier this week with U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). It began this way: Last month, Wilson, 72, read a story in his town’s newspaper about a group of students from the local black college who decades ago had faced an angry white mob. They were trying to integrate a dime store lunch counter.

Wilson was part of that angry mob and another that attacked the congressman, leaving him bloodied.

So, after years of wanting to make amends, Wilson apologized to the former students. (He’s shown in a grainy photograph reveling in having cracked an egg over the head of a young black man.) Then, this week, Wilson traveled to Washington D.C. to apologize to Lewis for beating him up at a Rock Hill bus depot. Lewis got off the bus in May, 1961, determined to enter a “white only” waiting room. That was when Wilson grabbed Lewis.
I'm not sure I'd ever see this day. A former Klansmen who seeks to reconcile with one of the very people he hoped to defeat especially by physically beating him. Is it easy for us to just think of Wilson as a Klansmen forever?

In the CNN video you might hear about Wilson getting a phone call from a guy who certainly considers him a turncoat against the Klan, even if he left that mindset behind years ago. It wouldn't surprise me if the person who called him is a young racist hot head himself. In a few years, assuming that he might have done something that borders on what Wilson did way back when, this young man might seek forgiveness in his old age.

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