In a year in which racial divisions in the United States have taken higher precedence than in decades, A&E’s Generation KKK reality show seems a good choice for a documentary. The series will follow KKK families, all of whom agreed to be filmed, and, concurrently, activists with the One People’s Project anti-racism civil liberties group.
Many Twitter users have protested what they see as a popularization of a fringe group that, while numerous in the early 20th century, now, by even the most generous estimates, has just 8,000 members. The show, which has not yet aired, has been labeled a "recruitment tool" and a "normalization" of racist rhetoric historically embodied by the KKK.
— Olivia A. Cole (@RantingOwl) December 19, 2016
— Erik Bransteen (@erikbransteen) December 19, 2016
— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) December 19, 2016
"We certainly didn’t want the show to be seen as a platform for the views of the KKK," Rob Sharenow, general manager of A&E, told the New York Times. "The only political agenda is that we really do stand against hate."
"'Generation KKK' is a documentary series," Sharenow said in a separate statement, "that exposes the ugly truth about how the hate group attempts to indoctrinate children. The series focuses on a team of activists working to prevent the next generation from continuing the cycle of hate. The documentary series takes a clear stance against hatred of any kind."
But many are unconvinced, citing that the network has recently been best known for its Dog the Bounty Hunter, Duck Dynasty, Storage Wars, and Hoarders, is now leaning toward edgy and politically-charged content.
A&E, however, has been seen to be attempting to expand its profile, from schlocky reality programming to more serious fare. Documentaries, including a recent popular Scientology exposé entitled Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath; Emmy Award-winning Born This Way, which chronicles the lives of seven Americans with Down Syndrome, and critically-acclaimed scripted programs such as crime drama Longmire and horror series Bates Motel are thought to be the beginning of a change in programming philosophy at the network.
Generation KKK is set to premiere January 20, 2017.