GOP Arkansas Senate Candidate Denies, Then Apologizes for Wearing KKK Halloween Costume in High School


Illustration for article titled GOP Arkansas Senate Candidate Denies, Then Apologizes for Wearing KKK Halloween Costume in High School
Photo: Charles Beckham for State Senate District 12/ Facebook

I’m just going to say it: White people stay failing at Halloween.

It’s bad enough that so many of them rack their brains trying to figure out how they’re supposed to pull off a Mr. T costume without applying blackface while Black kids have been dressing up as Superman, Rambo, Wolverine, Captain America, The Terminator, and all the other overwhelmingly white mainstream action heroes for decades without feeling the need to lighten their complexions—but then you have the Ku Klux Klan cosplayers.

A GOP Senate candidate recently became the latest white politician to have his past seasonal white-people-ing come back to haunt him (pun absolutely intended) when it came out that 20 years ago on Halloween, he was one of three white teens who dressed in KKK robes because...well…’tis the season to be racist AF.

According to the Arkansas Times, five former Mississippi high school students are calling out 37-year-old Charles Beckham III—Republican challenger to Arkansas District 12 Democratic Sen. Bruce Maloch—for interrupting and terrorizing students who were trick-or-treating inside a girls’ dormitory at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in 2000 by showing up in full KKK gear.

From the Times:

That night in 2000, all five said Beckham strode into the women’s dorm with two friends in what the other students described as full Klan regalia, not just costumes improvised from bedsheets. The robe bore a circular insignia, one student recalled, and their outfits included a pointed hat with a mask. They have no photos.

Victoria Brown, a Black woman who now lives in Suffolk, Va., remembers that the men weren’t “skipping” or acting playful. They were marching, projecting a “commanding presence.” She remembers Beckham, a formidable figure, in the lead. She remembers thinking later, “Did I see what I just saw? Gee, they just have these [outfits] at home? Do they do this on the weekend?”

“I just remember being petrified to the point of tears,” Brown said. She said Klan outfits were supposed to “strike fear” and they did that night.

Alana Nichols, a Black woman who now lives in Birmingham, remembered it the same way and said women rushed out of the dorm in terror.

All agreed that the men didn’t behave in a jocular fashion, as if it was a prank. “He was serious,” Nichols said.

Safira McGrew, a Black woman who lives in Antioch, Calif., additionally remembered Beckham as others did, for his big red pickup with a Confederate flag decal in its rear window. They said he also displayed a Confederate flag in his dorm room, as did his girlfriend, who had a Black roommate.

Jennifer Leigh Ann Jackson, a white woman who lives in Brandon, Miss., said Beckham and his girlfriend, now his wife, were outspoken about what Jackson characterized as “Rebel pride.’

She said, “This was not some isolated event, like maybe he had a bad moment.”

Last Tuesday, Beckham denied the allegations vehemently.

“First of all, I unequivocally denounce the KKK and any like-minded hate group,” Beckham told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via email. “It is sad that the Democrats will do anything and say anything to try to win. The accusations that have been made about me are not only baseless and false but disgusting.” Two days later, he changed his tune and apologized for everything after receipts got pulled.

The Gazette obtained and published court records that show Beckham—who wore camouflage pants and a white T-shirt covered in fake blood for the school’s Halloween competition before changing into much scarier KKK regalia—was expelled from MSMS, according to the Washington Post.

According to the Gazette, Beckham’s family filed a lawsuit over his expulsion, and documents from the case largely corroborate the classmate’s account of what happened that night. The suit was dismissed in 2001.

“I do sincerely apologize for any angst or grievances that I have caused anyone as a minor, as that is not the man that I am today,” Beckham told the Gazette Thursday. “I continue to unequivocally denounce the KKK and any like-minded hate groups and the rumors that I am or have ever been part of the KKK are absolutely ridiculous. I am a Christian, a husband to my loving wife of 8 years as well as a father of two and am proud of the life that we have built-in McNeil, Arkansas.”

I guess we’re just supposed to take it at face value that whatever “rumors” are out there claiming Beckham’s Klan robe was more uniform than costume are “absolutely ridiculous,” but two days prior, he called the very allegations he apologized for “baseless and false” as well as “disgusting.”

I’m just saying, clearly the man isn’t above pretending to be appalled at accusations he knows damn well are true.

But whatever, white people just need to learn how to do Halloween better.

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