The protests and walks are over. Wounds, physical and emotional, have been nursed but the
dust is yet to settle.
There are weighty emotions that linger and many questions yet to be answered. Why Orange County? Why the city of Anaheim? Why now?
The city of Anaheim is the heart of Southern California. From the clean streets and array of coffee shops, to Disneyland and beach towns, the city is teeming with exciting ways to spend your leisure time.
When we think Anaheim, we think fun and entertainment, certainly not a white supremacism group or violence.
The thought of the Ku Klux Klan convening in a nearby city is frightening, uncomfortable and possibly, too close for comfort for many Orange County residents.
It is not, however, entirely random.
This group actually has a long-standing history in Orange County, California.
In 1857, 50 German families migrated from San Francisco in search of land to plant grapes and engage in wine trade. They settled in an area close to the Santa Ana River and named it Anaheim—“heim” being the German translation of “home” and the full name meaning “home by the Santa Ana River.”
Although there were small groups of KKK members scattered across Southern California, this number grew over the years.
The group became most prominent in Orange County in 1924 after several individuals with secret ties to the Ku Klux Klan were elected to the Anaheim Board of Trustees.
Records indicate that about 80 percent of the city council members had some affiliation to the white supremacist group, which ultimately gave them control of the city government.
With their newly elected positions of power, Klansmen fired many Anaheim residents from their jobs and worked to bring down German-owned alcohol businesses. The KKK were from a more conservative background that was as against alcohol consumption.
In 1924, a list with the names of elected officials who were connected to the KKK was released and these individuals eventually ousted.
Other Orange County cities with KKK city officials include Fullerton, La Habra and Huntington Beach.
Although the city officials connected to the KKK were fired, the effect of their presence still lingers to an extent. There are a number of city monuments in Anaheim named after these former city officials.
It is undoubtedly important to delve into our history. There is a chance we will learn things we are not particularly proud of, but there is great power in knowledge.
Through history we are able to connect dots and paint a picture that would otherwise be inaccurate and incomplete.
Fortunately, our history does not define who we are. We must not allow ourselves to be bound by the events that lie in the past.
Jose Ortega y Gasat, a prominent Spanish philosopher alluded to this truth when he said, “We need to study the whole of history, not to fall back into it, but to see if we can escape from it.”