KKK Wednesday: This Is Why It’s Unethical To Be Ignorant

"We're going for doughnuts!"

“We’re going for doughnuts!”

How in the world, you might wonder, would a Krispy Kreme promotion called “KKK Wednesday” get the green light from an American corporation, even the British affiliates of that corporation, and even though the promotion occurred in Hull, a city in Yorkshire?

The disturbing answer is that despite the internet, Google,  public education, and nearly a century’s history of vile acts of murder and racism that received world-wide attention, recognizing the significance of the letters KKK requires intellectual curiosity, consciousness, and a good faith effort to have a bare minimum of knowledge about the world around us.

KKK was intended to stand for “Krispy Kreme Klub.” How many people do you think vetted the promotion without a single neuron firing? My guess: high double figures, maybe more. In other settings, such carelessness kills people, destroys companies, and starts plagues and wars.

KKK promotion

50 thoughts on “KKK Wednesday: This Is Why It’s Unethical To Be Ignorant

  1. Then there is this:


    Where there isn’t cultural ignorance to the kkk rather an unwillingness to let America’s past change their historic ceremonies.

    Amusingly, prior to studying architecture in Italy one fall, we were briefed by previous students about expectations. A black student, who went one spring told us about their experience with this. Said “when I stepped outside one afternoon and saw that procession, I thought to myself, oh hell no…”

  2. These stories are all too common, and will continue to occur. The people that create, design, and ultimately green light such racist crap, might not even intend to offend. (Hard to understand how couldn’t know it might offend) But as these promotions are being created, there isn’t anyone in the boardrooms, at the cubicles or in the meetings with enough weight behind them to say “what the hell are you doing? This puts us at risk, and here’s why.” And unfortunately whenever the topic of diversity in various institutions is mentioned, we get a flood of responses assuming that affirmative action is bad, that qualifications are all that matter, and that if minorities were simply good enough, they’d have the job. These types of responses assume that minority candidates are never qualified for certain positions, and if by some stroke of luck they happen to get one, it must have been solely based on their status and not their talent. Instead of listening, people tend to get defensive and before you know it, the debate has deteriorated to a level where progress is not likely. The promotion on display is just one of many pieces of evidence…..

    • Just for grins, you might want to check into USC 25, as it relates to hiring on the Indian Reservations. Qualifications are irrelevant. At least on the Res, it simply doesn’t matter if the minority is good enough or not. If a Native American applies for the job, he/she is REQUIRED to get the job. Unless things have changed drastically since I was there, it basically explains why there is little or no progress there toward a civilization that does not involve alcohol and casino’s.

      • Sorry, Joe, affirmative action has been deemed good – the perfect trump card over OTHER qualifications. It’s only going to get more perfect.

    • See, I take the long view on these kind of things and they don’t offend me nearly as much as they seem to offend other people.

      We look at this, and obviously the intention wasn’t racist. They didn’t think “Tee hee, we’re going to have KKK day and pull one over on the darkies!”, They were just woefully ignorant of history. At the end of the day, those three letters in succession weren’t actually what triggers people, it’s the history of what those letters stood for.

      And so it all becomes a matter of dates. There may be a time in the future where we see things like the Krispy Kreme Klub, and our knee jerk reaction isn’t to scream racism. I don’t know if that’ll be a good thing, necessarily, because it will require an ignorance of history, but history fades. Germany actually changed part of their alphabet after WWII, where two S’s side by side would actually be represented by ß because they were so ashamed of the connotations. That’s not common usage today. Is that for the better, or not?

      • I suspect that the Germans never again wanted to be associated with what the SS came to stand for. And rather than have to fight it, they did what they felt was prudent, and changed the alphabet. I never knew this, so thank you.

        The swastika wasn’t always a symbol of Jewish oppression either. It was used as a symbol of peace for thousands of years before the Nazi’s co-opted what it stood for. But who want’s to argue that we should try and resurrect its original meaning? Not I….

        • I was recently in a Methodist church for a funeral of a friend, and imbedded right in the floor was a swastika, though reversed, about 5 inches in diameter. I think it should be removed, myself…

          • Yeah, and I have this really nice pullover sweater – so nice, I have not been able to part with it for over 15 years, and it was a most thoughtful gift from close family – that has patterns in it which include a swastika. Worse still, was that I never noticed the swastika and wore the sweater frequently for a few years, until one day, when a buddy reached over to me when I was wearing the sweater and silently traced the shape (camouflaged, to me, to my sometimes oblivious eyes, amongst the other patterns in the fabric), asking, “What’s THIS?” Fortunately, I live in a climate warm enough now that since then, I have only rarely worn it, and ALWAYS with a jacket over it.

          • Perhaps… Heck… Probably. I’m not trying to make a value judgement on people who make those changes or don’t, but more point out that offense has an expiration date, for better or worse.

            And that date obviously changes with the degree of offense afflicted, Nazis and KKK are at one end of a scale, and hopefully the history on them isn’t forgotten, even while their ideologies are left behind.

            That said, when something like this happens…. Obviously people who know the racial connotations see this as cripplingly stupid. But there’s some people, obviously more than I thought, that just don’t know the history involved. And I struggle with that being a completely bad thing… On one hand, yeah. Ignorant of history, almost designed to cause controversy. But maybe it’s also a sign that after enough time that people genuinely won’t remember the atrocities of old and it might be helpful in building a closer society.

            My verdict, for what it’s worth, is that the Krispy Kreme people are awkward and ignorant, but not bigoted, and they need to apologise, but we need to let them and move on.

          • The swastika was a common good luck symbol among American Indians as well. During World War I, the patch of the 45th “Thunderbird” Infantry Division (Oklahoma National Guard) featured the fabled bird with outstretched wings clutching a swastika in its talons. However, this almost exactly duplicated the Nazi eagle motif of World War II! Needless to say, the 45th dumped the swastika pretty quick.

        • I was recently in a Methodist church for a funeral of a friend, and imbedded right in the floor was a swastika, though reversed, about 5 inches in diameter. I think it should be removed, myself…

        • Well, unless you’re Asian Buddhists like most of my relatives are, in which case they never stopped using the symbol’s original meaning to begin with.

          Also, from what I’ve found, the use of ß actually predates the Nazi era, and the 1996 spelling reforms put limits on when it could be used.

          • Also, from what I’ve found, the use of ß actually predates the Nazi era, and the 1996 spelling reforms put limits on when it could be used.
            Living and speaking German within Germany for several years and I’ve never heard of this.

          • I was under the impression the ’96 reforms were made because common usage had changed following WWII, where SS and SZ combinations that hadn’t used to be represented by ß were being replaced out of shame. ß wasn’t made up so much as it was expanded on. In fact, ß has some very ancient roots. The more you know, right?

      • I agree, Humble. As the years go by and ACTUAL racism decreases, the Ku Klux Klan becomes less and less relevant. Those of us “of age” have more horrifying memories of them than younger folks and they are more of a historical horror than a current one. That is not to say that the initials ‘KKK’ do not evoke very real shudders in large numbers of the population, however, and until they are well and truly gone, they should probably be avoided. My real hope is that Obama’s divisive message does not cause a resurgence of this thoroughly antiquated belief system and this organization.

          • My feeling as well. I find it hard to generate any respect (UGH!) or fear of an organization too cowardly to show their faces while perpetrating their atrocities, much like Muslim terrorists executing Christians.

  3. This incident in the UK reminded me of the anxiety attacks I have barely willed away while watching major league baseball games. Every time there is a fan in the ballpark who is rooting for their favorite pitcher, hanging “K” cards over the railings, I catch myself rooting silently for the pitcher – and for the love of God and all that’s decent – “PLEASE, just strike out ONLY TWO!” Or, once the magical, menacing “three K’s” hang on the railing, I start to root silently: “PLEASE! Strike out at least ONE more! HURRY UP, man!”

    • Maybe I could team with author Philip Roth and do a new-millennial version of “Portnoy’s Complaint” – call it maybe “White Boy’s Complaint” – about all the obsessions and phobias about political incorrectness (instead of about sex, like in the old book) that haunt today’s good-willed white male.

        • Because, as I reminded Tex (texagg04) in another thread: White males will ALWAYS be in need of Big Brother’s vigilant, severe policing, to prevent any outbreak of their inescapable, ingrained racism and sexism (and other inherently wrong political genetics, depending on their sexuality and religion). “Good will” is mere delusion; the faults are eternal truths.

  4. I used to pass the Koffee Kup Kafe while going through a small town in Texas back in my college days. I just looked it up to see if it was still open and it is. The name was changed just a few years ago to Koffee Kup Family Restaurant.

    • Sharon, I don’t reply to you to patronize you – since you said you went to college, I tend to presume you already knew, from long back, what you were actually looking at when you saw that old sign. But, for the benefit of others who might read on here obliviously if not otherwise clued-in: Chances are pretty good that that small-town Texas cafe name was the “real deal” – a not-so-subtle signal to “friend and foe” alike about exactly who ran that business – or possibly, a signal about some other connection of that business to a larger, er, enterprise.

  5. Wow. I had assumed bad intent, rather than ignorance. I should have known better; ignorance and incompetence tend to be better explanations than conspiracy theories almost all the time.

    A parallel example: back in the 70s, when United Parcel Service first decided to enter the European market, they took the tried and true Big Brown trucks and brown uniforms that worked so well in Seattle to – yes, Germany. Where surprise, surprise, they ran into a somewhat different perspective of what Brown Shirts meant.

  6. Lucky…oh yeah, it was the real deal. The first time I saw it, I was stunned. I was just surprised at how many people from my generation didn’t pick up on this. They thought that I was making a big deal out of nothing and the name of the place was just an alliteration….although Coffee Cup Cafe would have done just as well. I guess the point Im trying to make is that in some cases my generation doesn’t see the obvious which is staring them in the face.

  7. When I was in college, one of the fraternities was Kappa Kappa Kappa, known informally as Tri-Kap. But some of their shirts and other paraphernalia just listed the Greek letters. Let’s just say there’s not a lot of difference between the Greek Kappa and the English K. My roommate joined. I never through the door to the place, although I had a number of friends who were members… and no, they weren’t racist. But I couldn’t imagine wearing that shirt as a badge of honor; I don’t care that I would have known that those were Kappas, not Ks.

    As far as I know, the frat’s still there, with no name change.

      • Nor should they. (give up the name that is) But from looking at their website, it’s clear that they make an effort to spell out all three kappa’s or when wearing their colors/letters it’s in a cursive “Tri-Kap”. It seems obvious that they ‘re doing it so as not to offend or bring unwanted negative publicity to themselves. They’re also a local, one chapter fraternity at Dartmouth College. I don’t think it would play the same in other parts of the country…

        • It may be true today that they always use “Kappa Kappa Kappa” or “Tri-Kap.” It wasn’t when I was there, and I’m not that old. Surely a bunch of folks with the acumen to get into Dartmouth had to have been able to to figure out the potential for sending the wrong message even back in the ’70s.

  8. I have a secret vice – I make models of 1/144 WWI aircraft, including the period of warfare in the east from 1918-1922.

    Latvian and Finnish models often cause a stir. The former uses a red swastika, the latter a blue one.

    Similarly models of the Lafayette Escadrille, Americans in French service. Those who used First Nation themes had swastikas in all sorts of places – warbonnets for example.

    A number of German aircraft had them too, along with Yin/Yang symbols, Stars of David and other symbology.

    It never occurred to the Australian branch of KFC that an advert, showing a lone Australian cricket supporter amidst a festive crowd of West Indian cricket supporters – so feeling distinctly out of place – and handing round some foodstuffs to break the ice and join in the fun – would be seen as racist.

    We didn’t know that fried chicken was supposed to be a stereotype. No-one in the as is American, so what has that got to do with anything?

    We would never have shown an ad showing roast goat though. That really is a stereotype Jamaican food, as I’m sure you all know.

    • Yeah all of India is decorated with Swastikas, what with it being of Hindu origin. First time visitors are always surprised by all the Swastikas around. The Hitler Germans with their occult fascination loved all sorts of borrowed religious symbols.

  9. Before this story came up, the same day, I was writing an IP legal ethics hypothetical involving a for profit clown school I called Klown Kollege, and originally had the parent organization called KKK..Klown Kollege Korp. The second KKK appeared on the screen, I thought, “You idiot, you can’t use that!” and changed the name. Then this…

  10. As the Ku Klux Klan never came here to New Zealand it is always known as the Ku Klux Klan not the KKK. It is generally thought of as something foreign and in the past and nothing to do with us so we would not automatically think KKK therefore Ku Klux Klan. People here would more likely think KKK is some sort of diet or a rock group.
    KKK Coffee is a brand of coffee from the Philippines, SS can mean steamship or stainless steel and as some of the above comments show the swastika has been around long before the Nazis appeared. Just because something is considered offensive in one country does not mean it should be considered offensive everywhere.

    • Also, if I was visiting the USA I would be careful about how I used the word ‘ass’ whereas here in New Zealand it is a donkey, and here ‘fag’ is a cigarette not a derogatory term for a homosexual. So therefore although KKK means Ku Klux Klan in the USA it does not and should not mean the same in England and therefore there is no reason for the company to apologise.

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