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Why Is North Carolina Paying This Proud Son of Confederate Veterans to Lock Up Black Men?
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos Getty/FacebookKevin Stone, who denies that he is a racist or a member of a white-supremacist group, is statewide head of the North Carolina chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the fraternity of direct descendants of Confederate soldiers that the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “dominated by racial extremists.” He is also co-founder and national “commander” of the Mechanized Cavalry Heritage Defense, the SCV’s motorcycle gang with reported ties to hate groups and outlaw biker clubs whose motto is “Ride as You Would With Forrest”—as in Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Last year, Stone was elected leader of the SCV’s Army of Northern Virginia, giving him oversight of the organization’s dealings in several Atlantic states. In easily discoverable photos across the internet, Stone wears a motorcycle vest bearing insignia associated with a notorious neo-Nazi group, flashes reputed white-power hand signs, and stands alongside some of the biggest names in the white-supremacist movement.And Kevin Stone is also a probation officer, meaning North Carolina has given him legal authority over the lives and freedom of Black and brown folks ensnared by the state’s system of criminal injustice.Since last summer’s uprisings following the police murder of George Floyd, and on the heels of the white-supremacist Capitol insurrection in January, there’s been a national discussion about the need to root out white supremacists within the country’s police forces. But Stone is no undercover “ghost skin” law-enforcement infiltrator. He’s an SCV media mouthpiece—a highly powerful and visible force in the neo-Confederate ranks who’s been quoted in outlets from The New York Times to USA Today.R. Kevin Stone is a parole officer for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.He is also commander of the NC Sons of Confederate Veterans.Kevin Stone is seen in several photos apparently wearing the lambda symbol of the Shield Wall Network, a white supremacist group. pic.twitter.com/rXoCkQtvfM— Move Silent Sam (@Move_Silent_Sam) May 10, 2019 In 2019, North Carolina Department of Public Safety spokesperson Tracy Lee issued a statement noting the agency was “aware of the concerns raised” by Stone’s associations, and that it would be “looking into the matter and will take actions deemed most appropriate.” Lee concluded by stating the “department expects its employees to maintain high ethical and moral standards.”Two years later, a quick online search of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety site still turns up Stone, who declined to comment for this article, as an employee within the Division of Adult Correction. The agency calendar displays the dates of Stone’s upcoming court appearances.Stone has kept his badge despite not only his unsavory affiliations, but also his role at the center of a national scandal involving the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s backdoor dealings with the SCV that netted the neo-Confederate group a settlement payout in excess of $2.5 million from the school. NC Heritage PAC, the political fundraising arm of the North Carolina SCV, is currently under investigation for defying tax and campaign finance laws with illegal contributions to pro-Confederate Republican lawmakers, placing Stone at the center of yet another political storm.Why Is UNC-Chapel Hill Spending $5 Million to Protect a Racist Statue?The SCV purports to be a “non-political” heritage organization for “male descendants of any veteran who served honorably in the Confederate armed forces.” But since its founding in 1896, the group’s primary function—like that of sister organization the United Daughters of the Confederacy—has been to propagate the Lost Cause, the ahistorical Civil War mythology that falsely portrays the treasonous Confederate fight to maintain Black chattel slavery as a patriotic war for “states’ rights.” (The specific right those states were fighting for was keeping Black folks enslaved.) The SCV website declares that Confederate soldiers “personified the best qualities of America” and contends—in direct contradiction to the written and stated words of Confederate leaders themselves—that the South’s traitorous attack against the Union was undertaken not over slavery, but for “the preservation of liberty and freedom.”In the 1980s the national SCV organization attempted to recast its image—from a club for literal card-carrying racists to a “genealogy society” for earnest study of the Confederacy—with what the SPLC described as a “decade-long push to rid itself of open racism and bigotry.” Considering that the SCV’s historically revisionist ideology is best summed up by the phrase “the South was right,” it is not surprising that effort failed. By the early aughts, the SPLC reports, the most virulently racist SCV members seized leadership and began a series of purges of more “moderate” members. In the ensuing decades, the SPLC has reported an ongoing internal struggle between SCV members who merely want to focus on Confederate history—which, let’s be clear, means the romanticized white supremacist lie of the Lost Cause—and those one SCV disgruntled member in 2005 described as “neo-Nazis and white trash.” Youtube Back in 2019, frustrated members of the North Carolina SCV told numerous outlets that Stone is the de facto leader of the division’s racist faction, and that he has welcomed “scary” and “sketchy guys” into the Mechanized Cavalry motorcycle club, which they complain has “taken over” the North Carolina chapter. UNC-Chapel Hill’s student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, reported at the time that Stone’s Mechanized Cavalry was the primary gateway into the NC SCV for members of the Hells Angels and the Outlaws, as acknowledged on social media by Stone’s reported second-in-command, Bill Starnes. The criminal element and racist riff raff have created an atmosphere of intimidation, those members told TDT, in which bikers open-carry weapons during SCV meetings. In one incident in 2019, Starnes allegedly pulled a gun on a member who dared criticize Stone.That same year, INDY Week reported that Stone and his “leadership team… suspended and kicked out high-ranking members” who questioned their dealings, along with “anybody that doesn’t just do what they say.”But Stone has not ejected the many open racists in the state SCV chapter he oversees. Mechanized Cavalry member George Randall is also a member of the League of the South, an openly racist white Southern secessionist group, and showed up to the 2017 white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, with famed bigot David Duke. Jeffrey Alan Long, a member of the NC SCV and Mechanized Cavalry, was arrested last May for shooting “his gun just a short distance” from a group protesting a local Confederate monument. (The incident came roughly 10 hours after Stone sent a mass email to NC SCV members suggesting they patrol Confederate markers under threat from “domestic terrorist groups including Antifa and BLM.”) Recently disbarred white nationalist lawyer Harold Ray Crews—who tried to have Unite the Right beating victim DeAndre Harris jailed on phony charges—is a member of both the League of the South and the NC SCV.Racial Terrorists Are Stalking North Carolina’s Black Lives Matter ActivistsBoyd Cathey, a frontline player in the racist takeover of the SCV nearly two decades ago, is still listed as the NC chapter “Aide-de-Camp.” And Kirk Lyons, the Holocaust-denying attorney who was also key to the 2002 racist power grab and who once bragged of owning “America’s only pro-White law firm,” remains not only a member of the NC SCV under Stone’s stewardship, but until February was “Brigade Commander” of the NC SCV’s Southern Highland Brigade.In May 2019, nearly a year after anti-racist protesters toppled a Confederate statue called “Silent Sam” on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, Stone’s day job became a matter of local news interest. Local activists posted on social media about Stone’s neo-Confederate ties and alleged white supremacist associations, and a group calling themselves “Concerned Citizens of North Carolina” followed up with letters to state authorities, including the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. They noted that Stone often sports the “Lambda” symbol, favored by white supremacists and also the logo for the Shield Wall Network, founded by self-identified Nazi Billy Roper, who once said, “I’m not a white separatist. I’m a nonwhite extinctionist.” When multiple local news outlets carried the story, helping calls for Stone’s removal gain volume, Roper was among Stone’s most vocal defenders.On Nov. 27, 2019—the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, when the media was less likely to scrutinize the issue—UNC-Chapel Hill announced it had reached a settlement with the NC SCV, the chapter which Stone heads. “Silent Sam” would be given to the NC SCV and, far more controversially, the school would set up a $2.5 million trust for the neo-Confederate group to care for the statue. After 15 months of keeping the statue in an undisclosed storage space, and as much time publicly waffling on where it would go next, the settlement was supposed to bring a contentious campus issue to a close.And it might have, if that same day, Stone had not emailed a gloating letter to chapter members revealing the deal was struck in secret meetings between the NC SCV and the university. After Chapel Hill attorney T. Greg Doucette made the letter public, Stone attempted to have Dropbox wipe it from the internet under copyright claims, a battle he ultimately lost. (Doucette tweeted that an anti-Stone member of the SCV indicated the hand sign Stone displays in this photo with the statue is an inverted “v,” the Lambda symbol, another nod to Roper’s Shield Wall group.) In the missive, the NC SCV head bragged the settlement was “something that I never dreamed we could accomplish in a thousand years and all at the expense of the University itself,” and suggested the money would pay for “a new site and prominent display for Silent Sam and our new Division headquarters.”But NC SCV members who worried that the cash infusion would help Stone pump money into the Mechanized Cavalry, bringing more outright neo-Nazi and bikers into the group, complained to local news outlets. One member told TDT that the new properties Stone described would have “racist overtones.”“Kevin Stone is no more interested in Silent Sam and what it stands for than the man on the moon,” the member told the TDT in 2019. “He sees this money as a pot of gold to build himself and his biker gang a massive headquarters.”UNC-Chapel Hill’s administration and particularly the board of governors—a body appointed by the state’s Republican-majority general assembly—quickly became the target of outrage over the SCV payout. Students held protest marches, dozens of academic departments issued denunciation statements, the UNC-Chapel Hill Faculty Council endorsed a resolution condemning the deal, and outside groups including the Carolina Black Caucus and the Institute for the Study of the Americas decried the move. Noted historians David Blight of Yale, W. Fitzhugh Brundage of UNC-Chapel Hill, and Kevin Levin, author of Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth, co-wrote a critical piece noting that “the SCV is free to use Silent Sam and this generous subsidy to continue its long-standing misinformation campaign about the history and legacy of the Civil War, with an endowment that rivals that of the university’s history department.”Your Confederacy Is Burning. It’s About Time.William Sturkey, an associate professor of history at UNC-Chapel Hill, told me he was “absolutely gobsmacked” by the deal because the university had consistently told faculty it lacked the funds to back a number of worthwhile projects.“For most of us on the campus who are interested in pushing the university to be a bit more progressive when it comes to the study of race in the American South, one of the biggest smacks in our face was that we’re constantly told all that time we don’t have the money to do things,” says Sturkey, who taught an open-to-the-public class on history of race and memory with almost no financial support from the college. “I basically organized the whole thing on my own for the cheap. And they loved pointing a finger at it, saying, “Oh, we’re doing something! But then after telling us that we can’t afford to pay guest speakers, we can’t afford to adequately compensate you for the class, we can’t even afford to hire an historian of American slavery, then they turned around and gave $2.5 million to a neo-Confederate group to build a shrine. So that was what was the biggest slap in the face.”Stone would later write an apologetic follow-up stating he “was guilty of puffing and strutting in that email” before a judge scrapped the deal in February of 2020, ruling that the NC SCV lacked the standing to bring a lawsuit in the first place. The sketchiness of the deal—which included an initially undisclosed $74,999 payment, and the revelation that UNC agreed to the settlement before the SCV lawsuit was even filed—is still being revealed thanks to a lawsuit filed by TDT against the UNC System alleging the school broke North Carolina’s Open Meetings Law.Stone has repeatedly denied that the SCV is a “white supremacy group” or that he is a racist. He told a local news affiliate that the Lambda symbol he wears is “based on the Spartan shields in the movie 300,” and that he had never heard of Shield Wall before he was “attacked by groups of left-wing protesters.” (Which seems odd, considering that in 2017, the SCV and Stone’s Mechanized Cavalry marched with both the Ku Klux Klan and Confederate 28—which announced it had joined forces with Roper’s ShieldWall Network just one month prior—to “protect” Gettysburg’s Confederate monuments from an antifa group who never planned to be there.)In declining to comment for this article, Stone referred me to the press office of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. In a written message, J. Gregory Thomas, a spokesperson in the Community Corrections area of the agency stated the NC DPS “is aware of the concerns raised regarding Mr. Stone.” The statement went on to note that “the Division of Community Corrections takes personnel matters seriously and will take any actions that are deemed necessary and appropriate according to state law and agency policy. The Department expects its employees to maintain high ethical and moral standards.”In response to my query about the findings of the 2019 investigation the agency said it would undertake into Stone’s associations, Thomas wrote that “this is a personnel matter and North Carolina General Statute 126-22 through 24 prevents us from discussing investigations and related actions.”Racial Terrorists Are Stalking North Carolina’s Black Lives Matter ActivistsLike the SCV’s public insistence that membership is denied to anyone tied to hate groups, its “non-political” self-designation is so easily debunked you almost wonder why they bother. In 2019, after North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced plans to remove local Confederate monuments, Stone and his NC SCV held multiple “legislative receptions” that turned up neo-Confederate sympathizing North Carolina Republican legislators including Larry G. Pittman, Keith Kidwell, Jerry Carter, and Mitch Setzer.But the most overt example of the NC SCV’s effort to influence politics is its political action committee, which is currently under investigation by state authorities for violating campaign finance laws. The NC Heritage PAC, the NC SCV’s separate political arm, is being probed by the state Board of Elections for having “allowed the neo-Confederate group to raise money from its underlings, shuffle it to supportive Republicans under a different name, and avoid paying taxes on the effort by exploiting nonprofit law,” according to a report in Indy Week. A complaint filed by a watchdog group alleges NC Heritage PAC distributed roughly $28,000 into campaign coffers for state GOP politicians including Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, House Speaker Tim Moore, and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger. A spokesperson for the NC Board of Elections, when asked about the status of the investigation, texted me that “under state law, all campaign finance investigations are confidential.”Charleston’s Finally Ready to Tear Down Its Jim Crow Era Slavery Shrine. Will South Carolina’s GOP Let It?It is, quite obviously, inherently political to rewrite the Confederacy’s white supremacist history in furtherance of a white supremacist national historical memory. Amidst the takedown of racist monuments around the country, the national SCV has been erecting new tributes to the Confederacy and, like the UDC, litigating to force jurisdictions to keep Confederate monuments standing. (Including the Confederate statues in Charlottesville at the center of the 2017 murder of anti-racist activist Heather Heyer.)When the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination founded on support for Black enslavement, voted to renounce the Confederate flag, Stone preachily condemned the move as a “heinous and sinful deed” and “treasonous insult,” lobbing the latter bit with no apparent irony. In 2018, as the NC SCV was planting gigantic “mega” Confederate flags cross the state under a plan called “Flags Across the Carolinas,” Stone penned an op-ed complaining that leftists were attempting to cast Confederates “as villains, despite the fact that they built this country and secured the freedoms that we enjoy today.”After North Carolina announced in February that it will no longer be making or renewing license plates featuring Confederate flags, Stone issued a statement calling the move “blatant discrimination” and equating it with “ethnic genocide.” That’s not only both wrong and stupid, it’s the kind of thing only said by someone whose white entitlement makes them perceives a certain kind of treatment as oppressive because it is meant for “other” people.” Just this month, the SCV filed a lawsuit against the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, and Stone said in a statement that “to assume the Confederate Battle Flag is uniquely offensive is to validate only one viewpoint and thereby discriminate against others.”This is the constant refrain from neo-Confederates and Lost Cause proponents—that Confederate symbology is merely a way to recognize Southern heritage. It’s historically revisionist nonsense, an argument countered by the many racist and slavery apologists who rally around Confederate iconography. There’s a reason why the SCV is filled with neo-Nazis and neo-fascists, why the dots connecting Stone and members of various hate groups are so easy to trace.Somehow, the NC Department of Public Safety finds this unremarkable, despite the agency’s own figures showing an estimated 56 percent of folks under parole supervision are Black. In his role as a parole officer, Stone oversees the freedom of those whose cases he’s given. There should be a recognized conflict in determining the futures of Black folks while also being a proud promoter of Confederate lies who mixes with stars of the white supremacist movement and promotes a fable that attempts to erase the horrors of slavery and white supremacy. But in Stone’s position, there is a statement about law enforcement overall in this country, and the disregard with which it holds those who have always been mistreated by the system. And the primary takeaway is that, even after last summer, the system of racial injustice endures.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.