I must applaud South Carolina civil rights activist David Kennedy for his fight to close a store, “The Redneck Shop,” that sells KKK robes and t-shirts emblazoned with racial slurs. We must be mindful that these hateful elements still exist in large numbers in our society and the goal of my blog is to call attention to issues such as these that affect people of African descent worldwide. What is even more surprising in this incident is that Mr. Kennedy owns the building in which this store operates.

A little background on the Redneck Shop…..

Since 1996, the Redneck Shop has operated in an old movie theater that, according to court records, was transferred in 1997 to Kennedy and the Baptist church he leads. “Our ownership puts an end to that history as far as violence and hatred, racism being practiced in that place and also the recruiting of the Klan,” Kennedy said. “This is the same place that we had to go up into the balcony to go to the movies before the Klan took it. So there’s a lot of history there.” I say bravo to him and I will continue to champion his cause on my blog. The Redneck Shop is located at 108 W Laurens St, Laurens, SC, Tel: (864) 984-7484.

The John Howard factor….

But legal documents also indicate that the man who runs the store, 62-year-old John Howard, is entitled to operate his business in the building until he dies. Now the dispute may go to court. I hope it will.

Kennedy has led protests outside the store since it opened but said he’s never been able to close it because of the agreement that Howard can run the shop for life. He claims he can’t even visit his own property because Howard won’t let him in when he appears in the door. But that didn’t happen during a recent visit with an Associated Press reporter and photographer.

Media reports say that inside the store, hooded Klan robes hang on the same rack as the racist T-shirts. Pictures of men, women and children in Klan clothing and pamphlets tell a partial history of the organization. Howard used to own the whole building. When his store first opened, he said, people threw rocks at his windows, spit in his doorway and picketed. A month later, a man intentionally crashed his van through the front windows.

“If anything turns people off, they shouldn’t come in here. It’s not a thing in here that’s against the law,” Howard said, adding that he was once the KKK’s grand dragon for South Carolina and North Carolina.

Where is Laurens, South Carolina?

The town of Laurens, about 30 miles southeast of Greenville, was named after 18th century slave trader Henry Laurens. Some street addresses are still marked with the letter “C” that once designated black homes as “colored.” Racial tension was heightened in recent years when two white female teachers were sentenced for having sex with male students — all of them black. Kennedy said progress has always been slow to come to Laurens.

Final thoughts….

To blacks, Kennedy said, the store is a reminder of this region’s painful past, which includes the lynching of his great, great uncle by a white mob. I agree with his position wholeheartedly. We must champion the cause of Mr. Kennedy. We have to continue to take a stand against this “cancer” that has persisted in our society for so long and it has brought blacks so much pain and anguish. I would be grateful if anyone reading my blog would put the word out there in the media and blogosphere about Mr. Kennedy’s fight to close this store.