A white Tennessee lawmaker lamenting his exclusion from the state’s Black Legislative Caucus claimed Tuesday the group was less accommodating that even the Ku Klux Klan.
“My understanding is that the KKK doesn’t even ban members by race,” said Rep. Stacey Campfield, adding that the KKK “has less racist bylaws” than the black lawmakers’ group.
The freshman Republican from Knoxville was rebuffed earlier this year when he asked for the Black Caucus’ bylaws and inquired about joining. There are 18 black state lawmakers in Tennessee.
Caucus chairman Rep. Johnny Shaw, a Democrat, dismissed Campfield’s request and called him a “strange guy” who was simply interested in stirring up trouble.
“He is using this as a joke. This is an insult coming from him,” said caucus member Rep. Larry Miller, also a Democrat. “Why he chose to focus on the Black Caucus, I have no idea other than he is crazy and a racist.”
The 37-year-old Campfield defended himself Saturday in a message on his Web journal, or blog, under the heading “I too dream.”
The long excerpts from the Rev. Martin Luther King’s famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech infuriated some readers. It prompted Campfield to ban reader comments after some of the angry postings included death threats.
Experts on race and hate groups said Campfield hit a nerve when he used King’s words to take on a black institution. It’s the same tactic white separatists often use, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Very typically these days we see white supremacists, hate groups, trying to use the words of King and other civil rights leaders to try to advance their agendas,” Potok said.