Hate In America

Former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke speaks at a news conference Friday, Jan. 21, 2000, at the National Press Club in Washington
This column was written by CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Harry Smith.
Some things don't die. They simply fade and evolve.

I read in this morning's USA Today that over the weekend there was an auction of Ku Klux Klan memorabilia in Howell, Michigan. It's the second sale this year. The material comes from the estate of the late KKK Grand Dragon Robert Miles who lived neat Howell.

(Click here to listen to MP3 of Harry Smith's commentary.)

USA Today says there are 7000 Klan members in America -- down from five million in 1925. That number sounds low to me. I'm guessing the hates still out there -- it just doesn't dress up in robes and hoods anymore. Out of the embers of all those burned crosses other movements still smolder.

I checked up on David Duke the former Klansman and would-be senator from Louisiana. On his web site Duke still rails against Jews and what he calls Jewish supremacists. The Klan always hated Jews almost as much as blacks, though they reserved their deepest religious hatred for Catholics.

While rooted in the south, branches of the Klan flourished up north in Indiana and out west in Colorado. In the 1920's the Klan held enormous political power in Denver.

The Klan's heyday is long gone. But new hate franchises are popping up all the time. Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center told me there are 762 hate groups operating today throughout the country.

762. Hate doesn't die; it just gets a new suit.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.

By Harry Smith