How concerned are we about the proliferation of supremacist and hate groups in this country in the last two years? How upset should Black folks be about the fact that as of the inauguration of President Barack Obama, hate groups ballooned to a record number of 926? How much impact does this have on our day-to-day lives and well-being?
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, watchdogs for hate and extremist groups since 1971, hate group activities, in response to the wave of Latino immigrants beginning in the 1990s; the current economic downturn; and the election of our bi-racial President, is at an alarming all-time high. The variety and diversity of these groups might surprise you.
The Ku Klux Klan, which had been generally declining since 2000, experienced significant growth in 2008, according to David Holthouse, of SPLC. Brotherhood of Klans Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (BOK) is headquartered in Marion, Ohio but has expanded to Canada. Several Klans organizations have grown through the absorption of Aryan organizations in Canada and the U.S.. These organizations appear briefly in the news when there is a run in with the law, almost always over violence and murder. The Imperial Klans of America was dealt a “crippling blow” when, as a result of an attack on a mixed race teenager, a Kentucky jury delivered a 2.5 million dollar judgment against the group and it’s leader. And members of another tiny faction in Louisiana, Sons of Dixie, were convicted of the murder of a new member when she decided to leave the group right after initiation. The Klan has, as we all know, been the self-professed protectors of the rights and interests of White Americans since 1865. They have splintered and spawned into hundreds of large and small factions all over the country and beyond.
Then there are the Neo-Nazi groups. Legal problems have plagued these groups, too, as their leaders find themselves in jail—Kevin Alfred Strom, of the National Vanguard , for child pornography in 2008 and Bill White, of the American National Socialist Workers Party, for posting death threats on his website and by phone. Despite White’s legal troubles, ANSWP grew in 2008 from 30 chapters in 26 states to 35 chapters in 28 states. According to Holthouse’s SPLC report, the Year in Hate, published last year in The Intelligence Report ( SPLC Intelligence Project, Issue 133, Spring 2009),these groups busy themselves advocating for the death of federal judges and journalists and others they feel threatened by. One of the National Socialist Movement’s (NSM) have targeted their efforts on Latino immigrants. They are known for their annual “Hated and Proud” hate rock festival.
Skinheads are a more conspicuous bunch. Though their numbers appear to be diminishing, the reality is, according to the Holthouse report, they are simply consolidating and shutting down smaller, weaker factions, to form bigger more concentrated groups. In the last year, these groups have stepped up their activities by recruiting and forging bonds with each other. They draw in new members with” hate rock concerts, white power cookouts, Mixed Martial Arts prizefight viewing parties and other widely promoted events.” Many are even revamping their images to appear more current and attractive the new comers.
And I would not be fair if I did not mention the recent growth and increased presence of radical Black supremists and separatists. They have increasingly taken to the inner city streets decrying the evil Jews and denouncing President Obama. According to Holthouse’s report, the fringe group, Hebrew Israelite Movement, believe that “Jews are creatures of the devil and that whites deserve death or slavery.”
What is the impact of so many groups with so many members spreading hate propaganda? Does it even reach the main stream? Do we even feel their increased unrest? It seems to me that the growth of these groups coupled with the general discontent of American’s makes for a dangerous environment. We have seen the conservative right get more and more extreme and overt about their racial hatred. We have seen how they are feeding an insecure population ammunition to become fearful and paranoid, and to act on that fear and paranoia. It only takes a few minutes of Fox News watching to see how these scary anti-Obama, racially intolerant sentiments are escalating right before our eyes. We can laugh at how totally out there these fringe groups are. But if we are paying attention, we are starting to feel a heightened sensitivity between racial groups that is alarming. No where is this more evident than in the “anti-immigration movement”. Just last month Santa Clarita, California Councilman Bob Kellar declared himself a “proud racist” at one of these nativist rallies. Since Latino immigrants are blamed for everything wrong with this country, including job scarcity and the sub-prime mortgage banking bust, violent acts and protests against Latinos as a an all time high.
The consequences of hate mongering are not covert or subtle. Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report, provides a perfect example. The day after President Obama’s inauguration,
“a 22-year old White man stormed out of his house and killed two Black people and raped and gravely wounded another. Later, the man told police he’d intended to invade an Orthodox synagogue and kill as many Jews as possible. The reason, he said, was that he’d spent six months perusing racist websites and concluded they ‘spoke the truth about the demise of the White race,’ according to court filings.
It seems to me that those of us who oppose hate and wish to create communities of acceptance and understanding need to arm ourselves with knowledge. It does us no service to ignore the existence of this growing threat with the hope that they will go away. They won’t. We all need to be vigilant about our awareness and our refusal to empower these people. Potok quotes a New York Times editorial with this very warning:
It’s easy to mock white supremist views as pathetic and to assume that nativism in the age of Obama is going away….But racism has a nasty habit of never going away, no matter how much we want it to, and thus the perpetual need for vigilance. …It only takes a cursory look at worsening economic climate and grim national mood to realize that history is always threatening to repeat itself.
As I was researching this topic, I did the following Google search: “apology for racist remark”. I was trying to find an article about this Fox News apology for featuring a well-known White supremacist as guests. It’s interesting that the results for the search went for pages and pages—stories about politicians and celebrities and new casters and pundits, all expressing their remorse for some off –the-cuff remark that offended one group or another. One of the top search results was the resent John Mayer apology for using the “N Word” in a Playboy interview. Poor Mr. Mayer said a lot of controversial things in that interview. But as far as I am concerned, the “N Word” remark was not, in the context of his interview, any indication of racism on his part, flippant arrogance perhaps, but not racism. And though we have to be vigilant about these matters, it seems to me much more pressing to focus on all of these hate organizations whose intentions we do know and whose racism is well established as their very purpose.
With that said, SPLC recently published a guide to help individuals respond to hate. Their Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide, is a great place to start.. In it, they delineate ways to take action to diffuse dangerous situations; to change community perspective and behavior; and to look at ourselves and address intolerance at the root, and that is, by searching within. Here are the Ten Ways to Fight:
6. Speak Up
9. Teach Tolerance (I so prefer the word acceptance and belonging in place of tolerance)
10. Dig Deeper
Here is a link to Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Groups Map. It just may be good to know where in your area these groups reside and are planning to gather.