'Generation KKK' Preview: A&E's Explosive Take On Racial Issues In America

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In the past few months, it has been impossible not to notice the rise of groups promoting xenophobic and racist views.

They suddenly have a voice on mainstream news networks, they're being sought out in casting calls for commercials for big brands, and they've even taken over Washington, D.C. But now, there's another outlet for white supremacist groups: A&E has an upcoming documentary that will complete a deep dive into the Klu Klux clan (KKK) over 8 episodes that will premiere January 10th, 2017.

The inspiration for the documentary was actually borne about one and half years ago, when cameras were first sent down to the south to follow the lives of Steven Howard, the Imperial Wizard of the North Mississippi White Knights; Chris Buckley, a Grand "Knighthawk" with the North Georgia White Knights; and Richard Nichols, the Grand Dragon in the Tennessee "Knights of the Invisible Empire."

Producers said that they did not wish to provide a platform for the KKK. They note that the documentary series will feature discussion from anti-hate activists such as Daryle Lamont Jenkins, Arno Michaelis, and Bryon Widner, as they attempt to dissuade KKK members from remaining in the group.

Michaelis is himself a former white supremacist who joined Serve 2 Unite, an organization with the goal of preventing violent extremism. Says Michaelis in the New York Times:

People involved in hate groups do so because they're suffering...I really draw upon that truth to respond to their aggression with compassion, and doing so makes a very powerful first impression.

Still, giving these extremists a giant platform inevitably normalizes them (and their positions) in the eyes of viewers -- in the same way that CNN began normalizing white nationalists by inviting people like Richard Spencer to speak on their shows.

By bringing extremists into people's homes every week and highlighting common characteristics, shows like Generation KKK build empathy with their subjects, regardless of whether they intend to.

The KKK is a movement within the United States that has called for the "purification" of American society. It first came about in the 1860s, but then died out by the 1870s.

It then saw a revival in 1915, and flourished through the 1920s, taking on opposition to Catholics and Jews.

The third revival of the KKK occurred after the 1950s, in order to oppose the Civil Rights Movement. In 2016, the total population of Klu Klux Clan members was estimated to be between 3000 and 8000 members.

How will audience respond? We'll have to wait until January to find out.

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