Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan [Book Review]
Race, class, and ideology, claims Nancy MacLean, reduce to gender. More specifically, "concerns about gender and sexuality animated" the Klan of the 1920s. (xi). Its anti-Semitism was only symbolic, she thinks, for Jews "stood surrogate...for large capital," representing men who allegedly sought to use their financial power to lure white Protestant women away from the clutches of their petit bourgeois husbands or fathers. The KKK's antiblack racism was just as unreal and irrational: African-Americans were merely symbols of "the propertyless population" who threatened to symbolically undermine the Klansmen's shaky class position by raping their women (146). Communism, hardly a threat in America, especially in the South, in the 1920s, symbolized for Klansmen "a challenge to their dominion over the women of their group" (119). As for the Klan's anti-Catholicism, "A wife and children were among the pieces of property a man had a right to control; the horror of Catholicism was its alleged interference with this control" (119). As she sums up her thesis, "Beleaguered by conflicts of class and gender that their sensibilities left them ill-equipped to explain, Klansmen displaced these conflicts onto imagined racial Others ..."(127).
© 1996 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Article first published online: 7 Dec. 1998. Book review of: Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan. NY: Oxford University Press, 1994. 286 pp. ISBN: 9780195098365