Whenever KKK burn crosses, it is to intimidate the targeted persons by doing it near their houses or buildings as a sign. However, the association of cross burning with the KKK, or the Ku Klux Klan, popularized by literature, film and the rest of the media is somewhat of an exaggeration than fact. At least as far as the first era KKK was concerned.
Burning the cross is a ritualistic action that actually predates the very formation of the Klan, which occurred in 1886. The burning of crosses carried out by the KKK occurred in the early years of the twentieth century. The first such incident occurred in the second era KKK when a Klan faction, called the Knights of Mary Phagan, burned a cross in October 1915 on Stone Mountain. This was to announce the inception of an even tougher and popular group, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
The idea of burning crosses was popularized and associated to the KKK by novelist Thomas Dixon Jr. in his work â€œThe Clansmanâ€ that published in 1905. Even the novel recognizes that the act of burning crosses as a Scottish rite, which was adopted by the Klan on a limited level to threaten and intimidate targets. In the Scottish legend, the burning of the cross was considered a signal of declaration of war.
In a landmark verdict of the United States Supreme Court in 2003, any penalties and bans on burning crosses were considered unconstitutional unless the act was committed with the intent of intimidating someone. Apart from that, individuals have been penalized with considerable sentences for carrying out hate crimes that involved burning crosses in the recent past.
In any case, burning crosses have become synonymous with the Ku Klux Klan, hate and discrimination against non-white races and have become a symbol of hostility and violence. This is why most American people would disapprove of someone displaying a burning cross and some may even call for stricter punishment.