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Viewpoint: Amerikkka

I know that for most of us (and by us, I mean, those of us who were born in the post Civil Rights Era and/or who got the whitewashed version of American History that I received ), this term may be shocking and disconcerting. It’s not a phrase that I’d seen in writing before the other day, but I figured I knew what it meant from the context…

political spelling
The spelling of “America” with “KKK” equates both the show and the status quo of society in the United States with the Ku Klux Klan, a white-supremacist organization

Knowing what and who I know, I also figured there was some history behind it. Took me a damn long time to find anything that wasn’t a tribute to Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted album.

“K” replacing “C” 

 Replacing the letter “c” with “k” in the first letter of a word came into use by the Ku Klux Klan during its early years in the mid to late 1800’s. The concept is continued today within the ranks of the Klan. They call themselves “konservative KKK” or “klonservatives”.

It was common among 1960s and early 1970s United States leftists to write Amerika rather than “America” in referring to the United States. [1], [2], [3], [4], [5] and is still used in political statements today [6],[7] It is likely that this was originally an allusion to the German spelling of America, and intended to be suggestive of Nazism, a hypothesis that the Oxford English Dictionary supports. It may additionally have been an allusion to the title of Franz Kafka‘s 1927 novel Amerika.

In the 1987 TV miniseries Amerika, it denoted a Soviet-conquered United States of America.

In broader usage, the replacement of the letter “C” with “K” denotes general political skepticism about the topic at hand and is intended to discredit or debase the term in which the replacement occurs. [8] Detractors sometimes spell former president Bill Clinton‘s name as “Klinton” or “Klintoon”.

A similar usage in Spanish (and in Italian too) is to write okupa rather than “ocupa” (meaning a building or area occupied by squatters [9]), which is particularly remarkable because the letter “k” is not found in native Spanish words. It probably stems from the Basque language, Euskera, which does often use the letter “k”, and is spoken in a region which abounds in political radicalism. This is particularly associated with Spanish anarchist movements.

The most common usage of the letters “kkk” in alternative political spelling is the spelling of “America” as Amerikkka. A reference to the Ku Klux Klan, this is often done to indicate the belief that the United States or American society is fundamentally racist, oppressive and corrupt. The earliest known usage of “Amerikkka” recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is in 1970, in a journal called Black World. Presumably, this was an extrapolation from the then already widespread “Amerika”.

The spelling “Amerikkka” came into greater use after the 1990 release of the Gangsta rap album AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted by Ice Cube.

The San Francisco Bay View regularly spells America as “Amerikkka”. [10], [11], [12]

The letters “KKK” have been inserted into many other words, to indicate similar perceived racism, oppression or corruption.

My viewpoint… This spelling, Amerikkka, speaks to a feeling that is not new or unusual in minority groups, and it’s origins stem not just from the racist history of our culture, but was coined and used by some of the very movers and shakers of the Civil Rights Movement that fought segregation and frankly, made Ameri*c*a a place where it’s possible for a family like mine to exist. It differentiates an system of oppression, a culture steeped in institutionalized racism (Amerikkka) from a land and a dream and an ideal (America). 

That might be splitting hairs… like the fine line that makes the difference ‘nigger’ and ‘nigga’, the use of which (nigga) is a whole ‘nother debate where I find myself standing on both sides.  The term AmeriKKKa creates that same knot in my stomach… not because it offends me, but because I have to face the cold hard fact that we’re not done yet.  We don’t all live in America YET… there are some places in this country where blacks, hispanics, non christians, and homosexuals still live in AmeriKKKa.

It’s easy to point to my black partner and my black and hispanic friends and my ‘non white’ community and feel complacent about the fact that the world has changed.  YES, we’ve come a long way.  But, in the words of an American Poet…

But I have promises to keep,

 And miles to go before I sleep,

 And miles to go before I sleep.

         — Robert Frost
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