The lyrics of Brad Paisley's country-Western song, "Mud on the Tires," strike a chord with the Nose: we're as partial as the next desk-bound yahoo to getting out to the middle of nowhere and spreading a blanket as the sun sets, listening to crickets and watching the stars blink on. And so, apparently, is Team Hell, a Baltimore-based off-road truck-racing outfit that fields its vehicle-a 1966 El Camino body affixed to a 1977 Chevy Blazer frame-at events in the area. Its YouTube video of the near-monster truck's reconstruction is set to Paisley's number-one Billboard hit from 2003.
Here's the rub, though: Team Hell's driver/owner is Richard Preston, the self-described imperial wizard of the Confederate White Knights, a Rosedale-based Ku Klux Klan group that's emerged recently to hold protests at Antietam National Battlefield and Gettysburg National Military Park, with some members wearing Klan robes. No wonder, then, that online photos of Team Hell's El Camino feature it festooned with a Confederate flag.
The Nose has, over the years, made efforts to keep tabs on Maryland's "active hate groups," so dubbed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). As of Sept. 6, the SPLC listed 17 of them in the Free State-but the Confederate White Knights isn't one of them. Preston's creation, then, has either been flying under the radar-until suddenly making national news with its protest plans-or is a newly minted Klan group. Either way, the group's website touts its motto-"Save the land, Join the Klan!"-has photos of a cross burning, and implores members to "always do your duty for the preservation of the white race."
The Nose is broadly tolerant of our neighbors, no matter how much they may appall us. Team Hell, after all, is not the Confederate White Knights-even if they do share a leader-and is known for its efforts to support cleaning up the degraded water in Bear Creek and other Chesapeake Bay tributaries in our area.
But lest, dear reader, you find this an outlier-that Baltimore, or Maryland for that matter, a state built on tolerance and, in these times, held up as a bastion of political liberalism-be reminded: we have a history of hate too, so don't be surprised.
Remember: Last year the Human Rights Campaign dubbed Pasadena debt-collections attorney Michael Peroutka, a former Constitution Party presidential candidate and an influential supporter of ultra-conservatives such as Maryland State Del. Donald Dwyer, "an active white supremacist and secessionist sympathizer."
Remember: In 2009, white supremacist Calvin Lockner and two others savagely beat up an elderly African-American fisherman at Fort Armistead Park, just for kicks.
Remember: In 2009, Annapolitan James von Brunn, a white supremacist and Holocaust denier, opened fire at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., killing security guard Stephen Tyrone Johns.
Remember: In 2003, Highlandtown resident Lovell Wheeler, reportedly a white supremacist and member of the National Alliance hate group, was arrested when police with a search warrant found an arsenal of guns, ammunition, gunpowder, and gun-making machinery in his house.
Remember: In 1991, Hampden's Robert Poole Middle School was beset with white-supremacist threats thanks to skinhead parents.
Remember: In 1990, a white-supremacist skinhead group was granted a permit to march through Hampden.
Remember: In 1989, five Ku Klux Klan activists were convicted of assault or weapons charges in Baltimore's federal court.
Remember: In 1988, two Hampden men were convicted of throwing bricks and stones through the windows of a black family, the Boyce-Beys, who'd moved into the neighborhood.
Remember: In 1964, segregationist George Wallace nearly won the Democratic presidential primary in Maryland.
All of which is to say the Nose is aware of a long history of racially troublesome neighbors here in the Mobtown region. Just like the Confederate White Knights, they're entitled to their views-just not to commit crimes while trying to force them on others. So have a nice protest, Preston, and enjoy getting mud on your tires-just don't get any on the rest of us.