“You became my target at the time because I did not believe that people of different races should live together,” Rev. William Aitcheson.
Would you accept an apology from a former Ku Klux Klan member who burned a cross on your lawn 40 years ago?
Phillip and Barbara Butler are faced with this real-life question.
Rev. William Aitcheson, a former high-ranking KKK member turned Roman Catholic priest, has apologized to the Butlers for terrorizing them by burning a cross on their lawn in College Park, Maryland in 1977.
Aitcheson said he was “blinded by hate and ignorance,” according to his letter addressed to the Butlers and obtained by The Washington Post.
“My actions were despicable,” Aitcheson wrote, adding, “When I think back on burning crosses, a threatening letter, and so on, I feel as though I am speaking of somebody else. It’s hard to believe that was me.”
Well, it was him. And it was hateful, misguided and wrong.
The Butlers aren’t quick to accept Aitcheson’s four decades old apology. They told reporters they are not ready to forgive or forget.
The Butlers were newlyweds in 1977 and Phillip Butler had just returned from serving in the Vietnam War. They lived in a house on a quiet street in Maryland until Aitcheson’s racist act.
It’s a lot to ask from the Butlers. Normally, Black folks are a forgiving people.
But not today – and justifiably.
“This is going to take some time,” Barbara Butler told The Washington Post. “For you to come into my life, 40 years, and say I’m sorry. I will pray on it. That’s the only thing I can do.”
Along with the letter, Aitcheson sent two checks worth $23,000 to the Butlers — money the family was supposed to receive from a court-ordered lawsuit filed after the incident four decades ago.
“You became my target at the time because I did not believe that people of different races should live together,” Aitcheson wrote. “I was blinded by hate and ignorance. … I believe now that all people can live together in peace regardless of race.”
So while Aitcheson may have experienced a spiritual purification of sorts, the Butlers say they are actually owed $68,000 in interest accumulated over 40 years.
It’s a small price to pay for the KKK trying run the Butlers out of their neighborhood.
The Ku Klux Klan is persistent in its racism. The bigoted, white-hooded organization is desperate to recruit new members even as Aitcheson has apologized to the Butlers.
In small towns in Virginia, the KKK is hoping their racist and anti-Semitic messages will resonate with some white residents.
In the tiny town of Washington in Rappahannock County, a woman told the county sheriff that she found a bag in her driveway and a flier denouncing Black Lives Matter and encouraging residents to join the KKK.
The flier, according to The Washington Post, called for attacking Jews and synagogues and signed by the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in Pelham, N.C.
So far, about 60 plastic bags with fliers have been found in driveways, according to the Post.
Neighbors should rebuke the KKK at every opportunity.