Facebook is such a weird place. I wonder whether today’s political climate would be nearly as schizophrenic without it.
The violence and deaths in Charlottesville, Va. have people worrying about politics, life in America and the racial divide — as well as the heart and head of the president on race — with the specters of torches, Klansmen, white supremacists and Nazis now front and center.
So when a flyer advertising a meeting of the Michigan Trump Republicans in Howell on Tuesday, Aug. 15, hit Facebook, on parade came Howell’s reputation as the nexus of racism in the U.S., a reputation borne by the community because Bob Miles, a former grand dragon of the KKK, lived and practiced his hate here. (You can read Buddy Moorehouse’s piece on Miles by clicking here.) The flyer was posted on a liberal Facebook page, and what followed from Michiganders who like this particular page (of which I am one) were over 125 comments — some ignorant, some amazing and a few jaw-dropping — and a great number of which from people convinced that the city of Howell exists under a white hood.
Never mind that these meetings — to show “President Trump … We’ve Got Your Back” — are ongoing at locations throughout the state. You can read about them by clicking here. Tuesday’s meeting was conflated as being held in Howell specifically because, of course, Howell.
Home of the racists.
Here are some of the 125-plus comments to give you a taste of the tone about Howell, about 90 percent of which was negative:
• “Howell Is Klan country.”
• “KKK County for sure”
• “We were just talking about Howell being KKK land.”
• “The location IS Howell … where KKK holds rallies on the ground of the City Hall!!!!!”
Which would include the Howell Police Department, too.
• “No real surprise here. Howell is where the KKK got its start in Michigan.”
• “David Duke’s old stomping grounds of course.”
I am guessing this person meant Bob Miles, but I can’t be sure.
• “It’s Howell – KKK hotbed – I’m not surprised.”
• “I heard years ago they had a KKK group in the Howell area.”
• “Hotbed of the Michigan Militia.”
• “OMG. Skipping Howell on my next trip to AA.”
• “My dentist used to be in Howell. He told me that it was the birthplace of the KKK. He was an intelligent man and he was serious. Either way, it IS a hotbed of right extremists now.”
In response: “(Your dentist) is full of crap. The KKK was born in the south. This guy came to Cohoctah years ago to hide like a coward. There’s no hotbed in Howell. People don’t stand for that shit anymore. Just a few douchebags like everywhere else.”
• “Howell Michigan home of the KKK. HOW F—-G SICK. BOYCOTT THIS PLACE.”
• “It is Howell- redneck KKK territory.”
• “Howell does not just have a reputation. It was the residence of the Grand Dragon of the KKK AND, when we lived in Brighton back in the early 1990s, we saw signs painted on business (bars, restaurants) in Howell that said, “whites only.” I was approached by a “neighbor” who informed me that I would like it in this area because only “good blacks” lived here. I hate to paint the town/area with such a broad stroke, and I hope that they have changed since I was there. Maybe someone who lives there/near there can update us. But there is no question it was scary racist when we lived there. Moved in 1993.”
I have lived in Howell since 1990. I have NEVER seen any such signs painted on businesses in Howell.
• “I grew up in Fowlerville and there are still active KKK members in Howell. I remember when the leader bought the mansion there and it was destroyed because no one wanted them there. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but they are still there.”
I have no idea what this means. For all the years I’ve lived here, and for my nearly two decades at the local newspaper as a reporter and editor, I’ve never heard about a mansion being destroyed like this. If anyone knows anything about this, let me know.
• “It is Howell like a pig. KKK land.”
No. Howell is known for its melons and balloons, not its pork.
• Held in the historical KKK capitol of Michigan. Perfect.
Not all commenters hold these opinions of Howell. Some of the people who actually grew up in and/or live in Howell and Livingston County jumped to the defense of the county seat.
• “I grew up in Howell and still have family there and visit often. Yes, Robert Miles was a resident of Howell at one time and later moved to Cohoctah. Yes, Howell has struggled with a racist past. However, I have never seen a “whites only” sign on any bar or restaurant or any other business. Many good people have worked to overcome the racism of the past and to make Howell a more diverse and welcoming community.”
• “Howell is great. (A) few asshole people do not make a town.”
• “There are no active Klan here. The community is s-l-o-w-l-y becoming a wee bit more diverse. It has a long way to go, but it’s a start. If you want to come out this way, give me a shout. I’ll buy you a drink, or a coffee, or whatever.”
Ooh! I’ll take an extra-hot latte at Uptown Coffeehouse. This is the kind of political persuasion I can get behind.
• “Guys, Howell is NOT KKK land. Please, when we post false information we lose our credibility and become as bad as those we are trying to stand against.”
Of course, I saved the best for last. And to this, I say: AMEN!