Everyone mistook a priest for a KKK member

Rumors of a klansman on campus have proven false after a priest innocently made his way through Bloomington.

Last night around 9:15 PM, social media became a furious storm of confusion regarding a man in white robes roaming along 10th St. and purportedly armed with a whip.

Students thought the white robes indicated Klu Klux Klan affiliation.

From: Everyone mistook a priest for a KKK member

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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58 Responses

  1. j r says:

    At this point in this game, when I read a story like this I immediately wonder to myself if the person in question was really a monk and wasn’t some James O’Keefe wannabe purposefully trolling campuses for hurt feelings and ridiculous responses. Sounds like this was actually a priest, but no matter. The damage has been done.

    Notice the responses.

    iu students be careful, there’s someone walking around in kkk gear with a whip

    there’s a man walking around campus in a KKK hood carrying a whip and there’s NOTHING you can do to make students feel safe?

    Please PLEASE PLEASE be careful out there tonight…

    Here’s a question: why are these kids so scared of the KKK in 2016?

    The only answer that makes sense is that they’re supposed to be scared.

    • Will Truman says:

      What kind of jumped out at me is that if you see someone in a white robe at a university, seeing KKK strikes me as hearing hoofprints and looking for a zebra. But maybe there are more O’Keefe wannabees than I think.

      • j r says:

        Yeah, I don’t know anymore. I guess that the story could just as easily have been that a few hundred college kids saw the friar and the KKK wasn’t the first thing that popped into their heads. That story doesn’t get the clicks though. The narrative has taken over and all we can do is react to it.

        • Will Truman says:

          That’s a pretty good point.

        • Kazzy says:

          It seems important to know how many people saw the priest and thought KKK and how many got a Tweet/message that said, “KKK spotted”?

          Given that this thing spread via Twitter, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out who “Patient Zero” was… right?

    • Maribou says:

      @jr this isn’t a direct answer to your question, but I found out tonight that two of my best and brightest student workers – hard-working, non-upper-class kids I would trust with my life, and who would never make up this kind of thing – hear the ‘n’ word on campus, in their vicinity but not to their face – at least once a week each. (and yup, they’re African-Americans. One of ’em is actually biracial, but that doesn’t usually matter to this kind of thing.)

      At least once a week each. At a fancy liberal arts college with a community small enough that people actually know each other. In 2016.

      I feel like if I was in their shoes, I might ALSO get scared of things that weren’t really dangerous sometimes.

      Also I might sometimes be a little quick to place blame where it doesn’t belong.

      Because I would feel besieged. No matter how much I told myself I had an equal seat at the table.

      • Maribou says:

        PS When I think about privilege, I think about stuff like this – about how *I* had the privilege of being shocked (shocked!!!!) to learn this particular thing about the college I love – the college that is, on average, always striving to do better, and to look after each other – after nearly a decade of working here… I suspect my non-white colleagues would be a whole lot less surprised.

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          When I read or hear someone claim that this sort of thing doesn’t actually happen nowadays, this tells me that this person does not know any African-Americans who trust him enough to talk honestly with him.

      • Maribou says:

        If this statement from the article (by a RA who had passed along the goofball scare story) is true, it might also go a long way to explaining why they flipped out:

        “There in fact HAVE been klansmembers on the campus spurting hate speech”

        Now, it’s a public university and there ARE free speech rules (which y’all may be surprised to find out I am pro – not every Canadian believes in hate speech legislation) – but don’t you think maybe if they’re used to klansmen being on campus, they have some REASON to be overly paranoid about klansmen being on campus? Given the context of the KKK.

      • j r says:

        Because I would feel besieged. No matter how much I told myself I had an equal seat at the table.

        I feel like if I was in their shoes, I might ALSO get scared of things that weren’t really dangerous sometimes.

        Also I might sometimes be a little quick to place blame where it doesn’t belong.

        I think that you’re on to something, but that’s a problem. Uncontrollable fear of people in unfamiliar outfits is not progress. It’s the opposite of progress.

        • Maribou says:

          Oh, sure, it’s a problem. It’s not okay for our kids (and I DO think of them as kids, although simultaneously thinking a lot of ’em would do just fine as grown-ups if they had to) – it’s not ok for so many of them to be so scared all the time. Fwiw, I don’t think the two kids I was talking about are particularly scared most of the time. They are tough – have had to be or they wouldn’t have made it into the fancy schools, on workstudy, in the first place – and when they are scared they tend to DO things about it – and usually constructive things – not cower and holler. I don’t know that I’d be as brave as they are, but those two, and many of their friends, are damn brave.

          I just think empathy for the frightened, and recognition of the extra-specially absurd and cognitively dissonant situations** a lot of them are asked to deal with as their “normal” day-to-day existence, is going to get us to solutions a lot faster than the sturm and drang of most of the current narratives. Certainly the ones that get the play and the clicks, on whatever stream.

          In this particular case, I can only imagine that if there are in fact hate-spurting klansmen, said klansmen are deeeeeelighted by how all this is playing out. fear is their medium.

          **I’m basically a cheerful existentialist, so I phrase it that way to distinguish it as even more de trop than what one might expect.

          • j r says:

            I just think empathy for the frightened, and recognition of the extra-specially absurd and cognitively dissonant situations** a lot of them are asked to deal with as their “normal” day-to-day existence, is going to get us to solutions a lot faster than the sturm and drang of most of the current narratives.

            That is my ultimate point. But within that point is the recognition that our narrative about racism is probably doing more harm to these kids (the ones in college, particularly) than racism itself.

            In other words, in seeking to combat racism, we have exaggerated its power and the power of the individual to fight back. In these kids, we can see the results of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

            • Maribou says:

              @j-r There isn’t one narrative about racism though. The narrative I got in college was different from the one I got as a little kid is different from the narrative in my head now is different from … and that’s JUST me!

              On my college’s campus alone, there are adherents to at least a dozen different narratives about racism, all of which have lots of other adherents. Flipping through the news channels on a television, you can pick up at least 5 or 6 contradictory ones.

              I think part of what creates the extra anxiety and fear is the uncertainty and ambivalence of it all. Is racism something they are supposed to stand proud and fight back against? Is it something that’s exaggerated and really class is all that matters? Is it the killer of millions? Is it mostly small and petty and only really dangerous when it accumulates by the country-load? Are things better now than for their parents because they have more opportunities? Are they worse because at least their parents had hope things would completely change? Is it their own fault they aren’t braver? If they are brave, are they just being stupid and taking unnecessary risks? Should they listen to their instincts, their peers, their moms?

              And so on and so forth. A lot of those questions are actually pretty hard to answer, and there’s nothing like a mass of unanswered questions about incredibly painful stuff to up one’s anxiety levels. Not to mention – at least at my school this seems to be a factor – that now that more and more kids who AREN’T upper middle class are brushing up against the well-educated, well-read, well-mannered scions of the rich, the golden children of the US intelligentsia, and realizing that ever so many of them have feet of clay. If even these lucky ones can be such boorish jackasses, what must the rest of the world be like then?

              On a different note, the odd reactions I see around this topic on US college campuses are not unlike the odd reactions I remember from 9/11 (I had one or two of those myself), or the odd reactions I remember from the Polytechnique shooting in Montreal in 1989. Seems like a pretty universal human tendency to react to shocking events all over the news (Ferguson, church shooting/burnings, 100,000 etcs.), that feel like a direct personal threat, with increased paranoia. I speculate that would be even harder on young black women, since they get to freak out about all the race-based killings / terrorism AND all the anti-female ones.

              • j r says:

                All of this raises the question: why aren’t more of our narratives about building stronger, more independent individuals?

                I am growing increasingly cynical about these things and my answer is starting to settle on fear being the whole point.

              • Maribou says:

                @j-r No argument from me there, though I suspect our ideas of for whom fear is the whole point don’t necessarily dovetail. Maybe they do!

                I’d also say, why aren’t more of our narratives about building stronger, more independent small communities? Thinking 10-300 people, or so. Not saying the students should’ve mobbed the guy (OF COURSE), but I found the tweet asking the campus cops why they hadn’t done ANYTHING about this guy particularly rough to read. Our choices aren’t 1) hide in dorm room spreading inaccurate tweets; 2) rely on cops that we don’t think are doing their jobs. I get why it feels like they are and it’s ABSOLUTELY a harder set of choices for some than for others… but whatever, those still aren’t our only two choices.

                People outside of colleges – all ages / races / genders / etc of people, far as I can tell – are afraid of their neighbors a lot more these days, too, you know? Neighborliness is as much a casualty of the fear thing as anything else is. Been thinking about that a lot lately, what with rewatching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and all.

              • j r says:

                No argument from me there, though I suspect our ideas of for whom fear is the whole point don’t necessarily dovetail.

                My answer to these sorts of questions is almost always “us,” broadly. Beating up on these kids gets boring. We raised them. If they are stunted in their development, then it’s likely because we did it. And if we did it, then it’s likely because we were in some way stunted in our own development. And yes, I am speaking very broadly. I don’t even have kids yet.

              • Maribou says:

                Ha! Well, that’s a darn hard answer to disagree with.

              • j r says:

                And yet, the internet is full of disagreements with it.

                I’ve written some of them myself.

              • LeeEsq says:

                Mainly because we can’t agree on what a stronger, more independent individual is. I’d also argue that we do have a lot of narratives about building stronger, more independent individuals like all the empowered women narratives. The leftist critique of these narratives is that they are dependent on class and race more than anything else.

            • Kazzy says:


              Who determines what is ‘narrative’ and what is reality? Telling people who have felt the sting and harm and hurt and pain of racism that it really isn’t that bad or scary feels… wrong feels like too simple a word.

              • j r says:

                Who determines what is ‘narrative’ and what is reality?

                Reality should determine reality. And healthy individuals should be adept at discerning reality from the narrative. This is not about what’s right or wrong. Objectively, the Klan in 2016 is not scary. The Klan in 2016 is Honey Boo Boo goes to Walmart. In 2016, the police are way more objectively scary than the Klan and, yet, some of these kids immediate reaction was towards the cops.

                I am guessing that you tell your kids not to be scared of things all the time. You probably tell them in a way that is empathetic and respectful of what it means to be young and afraid of the unknown, but the goal is to raise individuals who are able to confront their fears and anxieties in a constructive manner.

              • Kazzy says:


                I guess my point is that there are plenty of people who would say that “cops as scary” is just more “narrative”.

                I guess the better question is how do we assess reality and communicate it to those not-particularly-inclined to see it?

              • j r says:

                We can’t. And I submit that is the problem.

                You can’t communicate to a kid who is scared of a guy white robe anymore than you can communicate to a middle-aged person who is scared of a guy in a turban. They have to learn for themselves. And when people don’t learn for themselves, that’s a pretty good sign that they are trapped in someone else’s bogus narrative.

              • Morat20 says:

                It depends on the guy in the white robe. It’s rather hard to feel comforted by thinking “They’re all wearing hoods so no one recognizes them” when you’ve met similar people who weren’t.

                You know, the guys with the shaved heads and swastika tattoos?

                I don’t know if you’ve ever had the ‘pleasure’ of encountering a group of skinheads, but being rather worried about them (especially if you think they have a weapon) is not entirely irrational.

                And historically, guys in white robes with weapons DID have some violent plans towards minorities….and by “historically” I mean “for the last 200 years and also now”.

              • j r says:

                This is exactly what I mean about being stuck in the narrative as opposed to seeing the real world around you.

                Lots of things are possible, but only a fraction of those things actually happen.

              • Morat20 says:

                How can you tell the difference between that and “we don’t agree on relative risks versus reward”.

                And how do you differentiate between that and the ACTUAL differences between risks and rewards?

                I do like your “objectively the Klan in 2016 is not scary”. I like how you use the word “objectively” for something that is, by definition, subjective. And you apply it globally. To everyone in America. A revealed truth on how they feel, regardless of skin color, location, past history….

                It’s a neat trick, but as a foundation for your entire point it’s beyond shaky — it’s self-refuting (as noted, you claim a subjective response as an objective truth).

              • Oscar Gordon says:

                So the school in Texas that we all agreed seriously over-reacted to a clock was perfectly justified?

                PS according to IN.gov, the KKK has not been active in IN since the 1970s.

              • Morat20 says:

                PS according to IN.gov, the KKK has not been active in IN since the 1970s.

                I’m going by the article, which stated they’d had the KKK (or equivilant, I’m not sure how many people bother to distinguish between various white power organizations) on campus recently. I can’t imagine why they’d lie about it.

                So the school in Texas that we all agreed seriously over-reacted to a clock was perfectly justified?

                That particular response makes me wonder whether I’m just poor at communicating, or if you think I’m a moron.

                I mean, do I look like a guy who doesn’t care about context, proportionality, or details? Do I look like someone who thinks life is incredibly black and white, with giant bright lines, and that everyone everywhere should respond to everything the same?

                But to answer your question: No, I think the school in Texas was staffed by idiots. I also don’t think they’re comparable to THIS case — starting with the setup (there had been no terrorists wandering around the Texas school, there had been no terrorist organizations demonstrating on campus, and in fact no terrorism had ever happened in that town — at least not involving Arabic looking folks as the perpetrators at least) and ending with the reaction (Texas versus “Let’s just go inside, send out a few emails, and let authorities figure out if there’s a problem followed by “hey, turns out it was a priest. Seems a nice guy!”)

                I know you think you’re making a point, but you’re really just making mine — context matters. The level of response matters.

                Which shouldn’t surprise you. Quite a bit of law is based on things like “What X knew at the time” or “what a reasonable person would believe” — which means even something as black and white as “crime” often has an element of “What exactly was going on here, and what were people thinking” when judging it.

              • Oscar Gordon says:

                Do me a favor, search the UI student newspaper, UI website, or local Bloomington media for any hint that the campus has had any issues with the KKK.

                I ran searches for “KKK”, “Klan” & “white power” & found nothing going back to 2013 (as far back as I searched) except for some mention of the KKK or White power as abstract mentions in editorials/columns. No news stories of KKK rallies, or any kind of organized white power. I found one reference to a drunk guy assaulting a Muslim student in November (he was immediately arrested and expelled), and something about some kids holding up a white power sign from a year or so ago.

                In short, I found bupkis regarding any kind of serious KKK/skinhead/white power/supremacy activity on or around the campus. If you can find something significant, I will happily walk this back, but as it stands, the claim on a random tweet that a campus has issues with the KKK has zero supporting evidence, and I find it highly unlikely that if there was any kind of KKK, etc. activity that it would not be reported in the student newspaper. This article I did find says that hate crimes on campus are very rare.

                Ergo, the context you believe to be there, isn’t. But I am happy to be proven wrong.

                PS sorry for the delay in replying, we are redoing the kitchen and this weekend was the one where I fetch the cabinets. It’s been a long weekend.

              • Oscar Gordon says:

                Also, I didn’t go looking to discount this story at first. I saw the tweet about there being problems with the KKK and was curious, because I hadn’t heard that the KKK was causing trouble on a major public campus. I mean, there is no way a group like the KKK, or any major group on the SPLC watchlist, is going to so much as take a piss on the flagship campus of a public university and not get mentioned in at least the student newspaper, much less cause anything approaching trouble.

                So, assuming my Google Fu is not lacking, why would someone say such a thing? My guess is that in this case, Twitter is acting like a giant game of Telephone, and someone decided to tack on a little tidbit to add some gravitas to the whole thing.

                As to why I care? John Crawford, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, the clock kid, authorities in the most remote parts of our country being hyperbolic over concerns of Muslim terrorists, what have you. It’s the culture of fear fed by overactive imaginations and zero evidence of risk. It’s a poison in our society. I mean, how bad is it when a college kid sees a guy in a white robe with a whip & thinks KKK, instead of “Oh, an S&M Toga party, and I wasn’t invited?”

              • Maribou says:

                Seems like these kids did learn, though, @j-r? I mean, the one dude was like “look, it’s this priest, in the yogurt shop, chill guys” and then lots of other people said “oh, jeez, he’s a priest not a kkk guy” and then they had learned. Maybe not to be afraid of crazy white guys spewing hate (frankly, I disagree that that *category* is not threatening, given the number of shootings there’ve been in Colorado Springs this year)…. but they learned that dominican robes aren’t a sign of a racist scary dude. and what a rosary is. i mean, we’re *seeing* them learn when we watch the pattern of the twitter messages…

              • Kazzy says:


                Interestingly, I’m seeing this same phenomenon play out in my school. Some of us are wanting to give our children more space to explore rough-and-tumble play. Others are so fixated on the risk that they can’t figure out how to do it, even if they recognize it is a developmentally appropriate need for many children. I’ve found the best way to help them get over this fear is to watch me structure this play with my kids, see everyone laughing and having fun, and the worst that happens is minor bumps. They’re learning… and moving beyond the “narrative” than such play is inherently dangerous.

                It seems to me that experiencing reality with an open mind is the best cure. The problem is, I see, is twofold: A) convincing people they aren’t experiencing reality and B) breaking through all the sorts of biases we seem hardwired for that make it really hard to change our understanding of something.

  2. Was he wearing a cowl? I can’t understand thinking KKK unless something’s hiding his face. Or did they see his cross and assume he was about to burn it?

  3. Will Truman says:

    @maribou and @j-r , this is a fantastic thread and I am really appreciative of it.

  4. RTod says:

    It’s hard not to mentally link this story with various ones about people who say someone looking some way and alerting everyone that it’s a Muslim terrorist. Or even the kid who made that clock.

    Except of course, that one of these types of situations is mockable ignorance by a bunch of goobers, while the other is just people justifiably being more safe than sorry protecting everyone else from actual dangers in the world.

    • Kazzy says:

      It seems worth pointing out that no one threw the priest of the plane/out of school/into a detention center.

  5. Oscar Gordon says:

    My take away on this story is that apparently “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” is no longer a tale told to children.

    It still amazes me, although it probably shouldn’t at this point, that an entire campus of young adults can work themselves into a tizzy over a report (with no supporting evidence) of a person in funny garb doing nothing more than walking.

    Now that I think about it, perhaps it isn’t “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” they should learn, but rather “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street”.

    • Kazzy says:

      But is this new? Or just faster because of technology? I remember all sorts of scares spreading when I was a kid. “White vans!” “Stretch limos!” “Cars without headlights!” “Needles in pay phone change return slots!”

      • LeeEsq says:

        The more and more I hear about other people my age’s childhood, the more I realize that my childhood was not normal even by suburban North East coast standards. My parents never did the entire stranger danger thing with Saul and I. We didn’t have DARE lectures at our schools. There are entire things that were apparently normal during the 1980s that were not a part of my upbringing.

      • Oscar Gordon says:

        And yet after, hell, generations of such idiotic scares, and how many parables & fables, we still fall for it.

        Also, something that was not made clear to me, is the actual danger of KKK members.

        I mean, in my neighborhood, we get notices when bears, wolves, or mountain lions have been spotted roaming about (even if it’s really large raccoons, coyotes, and feral cats of unusual size), but, you know, actual bears, wolves, and lions can be dangerous.

        Exactly how dangerous is the lone KKK member in a sheet? Typically the danger such groups represent is because of the group, not the individuals, i.e. a Klan rally can turn ugly, or some Klan members marching through can be bad, but it’s the mob with a unifying inclination that is the problem. A lone KKK, even in hood & sheet, is someone I’d probably not chat up in the line at Starbucks, but I’m not going to avoid him. Although I could totally understand a person of color deciding that Starbucks was suddenly unappealing and going somewhere else.

        • InMD says:

          I think there’s a legitimate question as to how dangerous the KKK even is as an organization in 2016. This isn’t to say a group of them couldn’t corner and harm someone but this isn’t the 1860s or even the 1960s. They have no sympathy from the general public nor would law enforcement collaborate or cooperate with them. Even if there was a lone KKK member on campus reacting with terror inflates the threat into something it just isnt. A better response is mockery and derision. As others have noted on the thread I don’t think all of this learned helplessness serves anyone well, including those who want a less racist society.

          My suspicion is that, in addition to the culture of fear and moral panic that’s always been with us, a lot of this stuff at university comes from the realization that helplessness implicitly relieves one of responsibility. As jr noted we really only have ourselves to blame.

        • Kazzy says:

          But if we’ve been falling for it for decades, it seems silly to lump this into “liberal college SJWs these days!” type rants.

          • Oscar Gordon says:

            Don’t recall saying anything about liberals or SJWs. This is about generating irrational fear. More akin to worrying about brown kids making clocks into bombs.

            • Kazzy says:

              Oh, my apologies. That part was not really aimed at you. But when you said we “no longer” tell “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, it implied that there is something new to this phenomenon. I think people have been generating irrational fear since the dawn of time, much of it done by disingenuous people exploiting human nature.

              I think what IS different is the following…
              1.) More people can position themselves to stoke fears because of technology. You used to need a gig on the nightly news to reach a vast audience. Now all you need is Twitter.
              2.) For similar reasons, fears can spread quickly. It used to take extended phone chains to get a whole neighborhood whispering about the new neighbor. Now an email can be fired off to the community list-serv before he unloads the truck.
              3.) Technology (again) has given us access to a broader range of “wolves”, many of which are not scary to us and therefore seem ridiculous and mockable.

              There are undoubtedly people who are spinning this into, “Look at what all the whiney, coddled, fear-mongering, race-baiting liberal SJWs got themselves worked up about?” And at least some of those people are the same ones who think brown kids with clocks should be scrutinized.

              • Oscar Gordon says:

                There is, in this modern age, value in the phrase “pics or it didn’t happen”. It’s amazing how fast a simple photo defused the whole thing. Imagine if the first folks in the chain had insisted on photographic evidence.

              • Oscar Gordon says:

                PS I’m still confused as to why a lone KKK member is worth all the panic?

                Was there recent KKK violence on campus?

              • Kazzy says:


                I’m not saying the fear was justified.

                My hunch is either a dummy (probably) or provocateur (probably not but possibly) saw the guy and send out the panic alert. And it spread like wildfire because people are gullible and prone to fear.

                Which makes this just another in a long line of similar such fiascos. Is it worthy of criticism? Sure. But I’d put it in the razor-blades-in-apples basket. And I push back against anyone who thinks this is something unique to “kids these days” or people of a particular political bend.

                It seemed to me you were implying a “kids these days” criticism. If I misunderstood that, I apologize.

        • Fortytwo says:

          What about Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.

  6. Morat20 says:

    There in fact HAVE been klansmembers on the campus spurting hate speech, but never have they been reported with a weapon

    It’s more a case of hearing hoofbeats and knowing there’s been zebra’s around lately….

    Personally, I wouldn’t have confused him with a Klansman if he was within 20 to 30 feet, but if I saw him 100 feet away at night? That’d be more questionable.

    OTOH, at 100 feet I’d still wonder why he wasn’t wearing a hood (the hood’s kinda a big deal with the whole ensemble). On the gripping hand, there’s generally a lot more KKK folks wandering around than monks — outside of Ren Fest, at least.

    On the whole — seems clickbaity. If there’s been KKK wandering around in the recent past, I don’t see it being that unreasonable to see someone in a white robe and jump to conclusions — especially when those conclusions were “Let’s all go indoors, eh and leave the nice, possibly armed KKK to actual authorities, whom we shall alert”.

    Edited to add: The follow-up with the priest in question was pretty nice. He seems a chipper fellow, and apparently has run into similar problems before. Which is…fair enough. There’s not a lot of groups that wear white robes in public in America, you know. 🙂

    • Marchmaine says:

      Hmmn, I’d be willing to bet one Schrute Buck that even with an apparent previous alleged sighting of a genuine KKK person that there have still been more Dominicans at Bloomington than Klansmen. By a lot.

      • Morat20 says:

        Yeah, but I bet the KKK sticks in your mind more.

        Especially if your skin color is…less than pasty…shall we say.

        Then again, we don’t get a lot of Dominicans wandering around here but we DO get the odd skinhead, so…

  7. Damon says:

    I am feeling micro aggressed.

    • El Muneco says:

      Thanks for the reminder – I need to check my privilege again. Last time, it was still pretty great, like usual, but you never know when things are going to change.

  8. Oscar Gordon says:

    You gotta love the Dominican Orders educational tweet in reply to the whole affair.

    Here is the tweet. That is an unexpected level of snark from some friars. I approve!