The Klu Klux Klan is marking 150 years in the U.S. this year, and the bigotry that launched it into existence is as alive as ever.
The hate group says it is harnessing the divisive and racist rhetoric surrounding the 2016 elections to recruit more members, according to a new report from the Associated Press. In hopes of ushering a new era for the KKK, it is also toning down its tactics and reshaping its policies. Although it has been known for violent attacks on minorities in the past, it now has national rules against violence except in the case of self defense. However, it is still considered dangerous, and plans to unite with other hate groups to grow, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center told the AP.
"While today's Klan has still been involved in atrocities, there is no way it is as violent as the Klan of the '60s," Potok said. "That does not mean it is some benign group that does not engage in political violence."
The Klansmen interviewed by the AP said they have seen an increase in members as Barack Obama's second term comes to an end. Klan leaders say Donald Trump's immigration position and his ascendancy in the GOP are signs things are going their way.
"You know, we began 40 years ago saying we need to build a wall," Arkansas-based Klan leader Thomas Robb said.
Indicators of the current tense racial climate in the U.S. go beyond the KKK and its plans to expand. Studies found that there has been a spike in hate groups and attacks on Muslim Americans as Donald Trump rose to become the Republican candidate. Trump was endorsed by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke in February and initially refused to condemn Duke or the KKK, saying, "I don't know what group you're talking about."
Joining the Klan is relatively easy if you're white, the AP reported and just requires online registration. The Anti-Defamation League puts membership nationwide at 3,000.