Father Jude McPeak’s story is a case study in what Christians call turning-the-other-cheek.
Last Monday night, the Dominican in his white habit had been leading a men’s group in the dorms of Indiana University, Bloomington. The group got out early that night, he told AMI Newswire. They decided to walk to Red Mango, a local frozen yogurt joint, for a delicious snack. As always, the priest carried his rosary beads on his belt to help facilitate prayer.
“It was while we were walking from the dorm to Red Mango, about two blocks, that someone saw us and thought that I was a Klan member with a whip hanging from my side,” he said.
“The student -- I believe it was a girl – tweeted that there’s a Klan member on campus with a weapon. She reported what she saw to an RA, and the university responded by sending an alert to all the students on campus.”
The school “didn’t think it was anything serious,” he opined, “but because a weapon was reported they felt they had to notify the students.”
Things got a bit out of hand after that. “Word of the sighting got around to a lot of people, and someone at Red Mango saw the alert and assumed that I was the Klan member. Then they took a photo of me and sent it on an app called Yik Yak,” McPeak lamented.
McPeak described two sets of reactions to the alert and the photo: the sane reaction and something else entirely. “As soon as one of the RAs saw his picture they immediately knew that I was a priest, and sent out another message saying it was all a misunderstanding,” he said.
Unfortunately, that “message didn’t go around as quickly, and people learned that I was in Red Mango,” which led to a memorable, though non-violent confrontation.
“While I was at Red Mango three students came up to my table and asked if I was part of the KKK. I told them, ‘No, I'm a priest.’ One of the students followed up by asking ‘so you don't hate black people?’ I simply said ‘of course not.’ Then one of the other students asked, ‘why are you wearing that?’ I said it's because I'm a Dominican monk," McPeak said.
The priest said his interlocutors “left without saying anything else” and so he just tried to chalk it up to a bizarre “innocent mistake.” Not long after, he “learned about all of the buzz.”
Having touched a nerve, the story is buzzing still. “It seems that this story has spread across the country and even into other countries. People are still sending me links to the story in places like the Netherlands, the UK, Mexico, and beyond,” said McPeak.
His story has legs because it’s deeply embarrassing to the students and administration of Indiana University, allegedly exposing both the grievance culture encouraged by political correctness and the stunning ignorance many Americans students have of all things religious.
The girl who first tweeted out the KKK sighting deleted her @babyynini_ Twitter account, only to have that real estate grabbed by another account calling itself a “PARODY of a really, really stupid chick.” Representative tweet: “HELP!!! The’s a guy in a tall red hat with a flat top and tassle on it. He’s got to be KKK!”
The university itself wants to have as little to do with the story as possible. Multiple AMI requests for comment to Martin McCrory, IU Bloomington associate vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs and vice provost for educational inclusion, went unanswered.
In fact, just about the only person willing to stick up for the students and school in this matter, at this point, appears to be Father Jude himself, though not always convincingly.
Asked whether or not he was sporting a pointy white hood that night, perhaps the most iconic representation of the KKK, McPeak said no. He does have a hood but it looks nothing like the Klan number and it certainly wasn’t up that night. However, he quickly added “I always have my rosary on me which is brown. I could see how someone looking at it from afar, and at night, could mistake it for a whip.”
He also said he could see how students might still get worked up over a fake KKK sighting, since the Klan “had a revival in Martinsville, Indiana, which is about 30 minutes from IU” – way back in the 1920s.
McPeak doesn’t think the students “were willfully ignorant about the Dominicans” and worries about all of the negative feedback students have received over the small matter of confusing him for a KKK quasi-terrorist. Why, “Even one of the RAs who reported that I wasn’t part of the Klan has had to shut down his Facebook and Twitter because people were insulting him and IU’s students.”
“Thankfully,” McPeak added, “I have received only encouragement and support from people.” Other than that one little thing.