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“Black Klansman” Ron Stallworth visits CU Denver

Over 200 guests registered to see Stallworth.
Photo: Madison Daley · The Sentry

Stallworth encourages students to be agents of change

From becoming the first black police officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department to infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan and now being the subject of an award-winning film, Ron Stallworth has lived a life worth talking about.

On March 19, Stallworth spent an evening at CU Denver discussing his book Black Klansman, the portrayal of his story in Spike Lee’s Oscar-winning film BlacKkKlansman, and his take on being a police officer and detective for over 30 years.

In 1979, Stallworth responded to an ad in the local newspaper recruiting members of the Colorado Springs community to join the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Between calling Grand Wizard David Duke and sending in a white undercover officer to infiltrate the Klan, Stallworth uncovered high-ranking individuals at the nearby Fort Carson military base and disrupted the Klan’s acts of terror.

Stallworth’s thought-provoking talk on campus gave students, faculty, and staff an opportunity to meet the real-life “Black Klansman” and gain insight into the fact and fiction of the portrayals of his story.

Over 200 students, staff, and faculty registered to attend Stallworth’s guest lecture hosted by CU Denver Live!, CU Denver’s student fee-funded arts organization. Many students expressed their excitement for the opportunity to see such a prestigious speaker on the CU Denver campus.

Stallworth’s talk on campus focused primarily on the political and historical biases of the KKK. He lightly touched upon the topic of his experiences infiltrating the Klan, but his talk focused on his opinions on current political matters.

After being asked by the moderator about the feelings of KKK members towards the film, Stallworth dove into the history of the Klan and the basis of their beliefs.

“They hate us,” Stallworth said, explaining the Klan’s emotions towards minority individuals. “They feel that I, as a black man, do not have the mental capacity beyond that of an ape.”

Stallworth explained his remembrance of Vietnamese immigrants seeking refuge in America, serving as a scapegoat for the Klan’s anger.

“All they were trying to do was make a living, and the KKK attacked them,” Stallworth said, adding after a pause, “There’s somebody else who believes that. Guess who?”

Regardless of politically charged remarks, Stallworth raised awareness to hate crimes and challenged contemporary police culture. He expressed his belief that power is not a light responsibility. Whether an individual finds themselves in a position of law enforcement or just a socially conscious citizen, Stallworth called every event goer to act in a way that provides the greatest good for the greatest number.

When asked how college students can impact their communities, Stallworth said, “To inspire change, get involved. Find what your passion is, then devote yourself to fulfilling that passion.”

“You have to recognize that you can’t accomplish anything, ladies and gentlemen, unless you are prepared to meet the challenge when it comes your way.”

To Stallworth, the challenges that arose were a threat to his life, yet he continued to protect his community. Even though his undercover mission began 40 years ago, Stallworth’s evening on campus taught audience members that the goal of protecting vulnerable members of their communities is just as pertinent today as it was then.

“The KKK never changes,” Stallworth said.

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