Kyle Rogers has been described as a white supremacist and one of the rising leaders of America’s radical right, but most of his neighbors in Summerville probably don’t even know he’s there.
The 35-year-old computer engineer has kept a relatively low profile in local circles since moving from Ohio to the Lowcountry in 2004.
But he’s been busy building a name for himself through racially provocative writings and as a key player in the Council of Conservative Citizens, a national group that opposes “all efforts to mix the races of mankind.”
The organization has its roots in the segregationist White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and ’60s, and civil rights activists consider it to be a race-baiting hate group. Rogers serves on the group’s national board of directors, runs its website, is the editor-in-chief of its newspaper and heads its 200-member South Carolina chapter.
The Southern Poverty Law Center recently named Rogers one of the radical right’s “30 to watch,” saying he is part of a new crop of activist leaders bent on distorting democracy and fomenting racial, ethnic and religious strife.
Rogers said he has received nothing but congratulations from supporters. But he scoffs at the distinction, describing it as “childish name-calling” and an inconsequential scam to boost fundraising.
“It’s all about convincing little old ladies that there really is this army of skinheads and Nazis out there so they will donate money,” he said. “They are talking about stuff that only exists in Hollywood movies.”
Rogers said he is not a racist or a danger; he’s just voicing facts and opinions that are ignored by mainstream media.
He said his group upholds the ideals of the nation’s founding fathers by fighting government intrusions in people’s lives, illegal immigration that undermines the country’s stability and “social engineering” programs like affirmative action that give one group advantages over another.
Poke a little deeper and Rogers also will share beliefs that black people ruin things for the rest of society and that “slaves who were taken to the United States hit the slave lottery” because they were brought to a country where they could thrive and prosper.
Black people here, he argues, “are the most privileged members of their race” and “benefit greatly from the generosity of American whites, as they always have.”
“I don’t see a legacy of oppression,” Rogers said. “Blacks have always benefited from being in the United States.”
Bernard Powers, a College of Charleston professor who specializes in African-American history, said Rogers’ views fly in the face of historical fact, ignoring the brutal subjugation of millions of people, the strip-mining of Africa’s populace and myriad inequities that remain barriers to success.
“To say that America was the promised land for these folks is far from borne out by the facts,” he said.
But make no mistake, Rogers has his followers, and that worries people like Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. Rogers has emerged as a key member of the council’s new guard, using Web-savvy and racist rhetoric to promote an agenda of white supremacy and societal division, she said.
“Most folks in the group are pretty old, so he represents the future of the organization,” she said. “The council is not a violent organization. But they push nasty propaganda that causes major damage in this country.”
Living aloneRogers joined the Council of Conservative Citizens 12 years ago in Ohio after a friend shared the group’s literature with him. He went on to lead the Columbus chapter, and Rogers later wrote that he joined the group “not only to fight for conservative values, but also to preserve my European and Southern heritage.”
Rogers is single and without children. He lives alone, likes to play AC/DC and Guns ’n’ Roses on his guitar and has taken Irish step-dancing lessons. Beyond that, he doesn’t reveal much about his personal life.
Rogers said he moved to South Carolina for the weather, job opportunities and an interest in the state’s history. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from Ohio State University and works in the computer field, although he won’t say where.
He lived for a time on James Island before relocating to Summerville about four years ago. He wouldn’t say where he lives or allow a reporter to visit his home, but he did agree to a phone interview.
Rogers said he lives in a neighborhood that’s about 80 percent white. He knows very few of his neighbors, but judging by the conservative bumper stickers he sees on their cars, “it’s not like this is hostile territory.”
A low profileBetween 2006 and 2007, Rogers and his group staged demonstrations in Charleston, Columbia and other spots protesting illegal immigration and efforts to grant amnesty to undocumented workers.
They also lobbed verbal brickbats at U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and others who backed amnesty measures. The largest rally, in Greenville, attracted about 1,000 people, he said.
More recently, Rogers spoke out against plans to move a Confederate memorial in Orangeburg this year.
But his profile in this area remains a bit under the radar for most folks. Though his online biography credits the Greenville rally with helping to launch the state’s tea party movement, Charleston Tea Party Chairman Mike Murphree and others said they didn’t know who he was when contacted by The Post and Courier last week.
“I’m scratching my head on that one,” Murphree said.
Rogers dabbled in local politics for a while and served as a delegate at the Charleston County Republican convention in 2007. County GOP Chairwoman Lin Bennett couldn’t recall much about him, and her counterparts in Dorchester County said Rogers hasn’t frequented their meetings since moving to Summerville.
State NAACP President Lonnie Randolph said he has heard of Rogers but has never encountered the man at any function or protest. “We don’t run in the same circles,” he said. “I like to keep my sheets on the bed.”
Harnessing the WebRogers, however, has made quite a name for himself on the Internet. He writes for the Council of Conservative Citizens’ newspaper, the Citizens Informer, and for Examiner.com, opining on everything from black extremism to the Kennewick Man, an ancient skeleton found in Washington state.
Rogers and others claim the bones prove that whites arrived in America first, only to be slaughtered by Indians.
Last year Rogers also pushed a headline-grabbing campaign to boycott Marvel Studios’ “Thor” movie because black actor Idris Elba was cast in the role of the Norse God Heimdallr.
Most recently, Rogers has garnered attention for his writings about black-on-white crime and his condemnation of news outlets that do not identify the race of criminal suspects.
He said he doesn’t make much money from his efforts, but his online pieces have attracted heavy interest and new members to the Council of Conservative Citizens’ cause. A recent piece on the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, for instance, drew more than 550,000 views.
Gordon Baum, chief executive officer of the Council of Conservative Citizens, described Rogers as “one of the smartest guys we’ve got,” a natural writer with a keen grasp of history. He predicted that Rogers will go far in the organization. “Kyle is a very bright guy.”
Rogers said he plans to keep writing and espousing alternative viewpoints, with the hope that someday he can make this his full-time occupation.
The NAACP’s Randolph doesn’t see Rogers as a much of threat — except to himself. “You can’t ever help yourself by trying to hurt other people, and there is no good in being ugly and bad,” he said.
“All I can say is, he should be thankful he lives in a country that allows even the most ridiculous people to have a place.”
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.