Ken Parker, a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, marched at the White nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017. Now, according to NBC News, the Florida man denounced hate groups after engaging with a Punjabi/Pashtun director and a Black pastor.
Parker first joined the Klan in 2012 while living in Georgia. He wore a green robe and never concealed his face because he “stood for what he believed in.” After years of recruiting new members to the organization, Parker said it was time to “stand up for my white race,” and decided to march at the first Unite the Right rally.
After the event was declared unlawful, Parker suffered from “heat exhaustion” and was helped by Deeyah Khan, a filmmaker who produced the documentary, White Right: Meeting the Enemy, about the event. Despite the man’s racist views, Khan rose above and made sure he was well.
“She was completely respectful to me and my fiancée the whole time,” Parker said. “And so that kind of got me thinking: She’s a really nice lady. Just because she’s got darker skin and believes in a different god than the god I believe in, why am I hating these people?”
Months after the rally, he began to rethink some of his bigoted views. It wasn’t until Parker met his neighbor and pastor William McKinnon III, who invited the neo-nazi to Easter service, that his mind changed completely. The following month he testified in front of the African-American congregation.
“I said I was a grand dragon of the KKK, and then the Klan wasn’t hateful enough for me, so I decided to become a Nazi,” Parker recounted. “But after the service, not a single one of them had anything negative to say. They’re all coming up and hugging me and shaking my hand, you know, building me up instead of tearing me down.”
He was baptized in front of those very people on July 21. Earlier this month, he underwent laser removal for his swastika, confederate flag and KKK tattoos.
Parker apologized for spreading racist ideologies. He also urged others to leave hate groups because they’re only “throwing” their lives away.
One year ago this man was marching in Charlottesville. Today, his life has taken a dramatic twist toward faith, with the help of a black pastor. @MorganRadford has his story tonight on @NBCNightlyNews. pic.twitter.com/4f6GEezSvc
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) August 10, 2018
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.