Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hate Groups on the Rise in America

Hate groups are on the rise. It is getting even more alarming with each passing year. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) tracks hate groups, and has been doing so since the 1980's. The report of hate groups in 2010 issued last month by the SPLC, indicates that there are over 1,000 active hate groups in the US. These are not teenagers on a spur of the moment rampage, or a couple of drunks blaming another race or religion for their problems. These are organized hate groups. They have members, meetings, strategies, websites. They take ugly actions.

This 1,000 does not include the 824 Patriot Groups, organized groups defined as those that "engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing, or advocate or adhere to extreme antigovernment doctrines." Nor does it include the 319 Nativist Extremist Groups such as "the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, the Minuteman Project and the Federation Immigration Reform and Enforcement Coalition."

The SPLC site goes on to say "Taken together, these three strands of the radical right -- the hatemongers, the nativists and the antigovernment zealots -- increased from 1,753 groups in 2009 to 2,145 in 2010, a 22% rise. That followed a 2008-2009 increase of 40%."

So let's take a closer look at the increase in a chart we use with the permission of Mark Potok, the director of the Intelligence Project of the SPLC. And this is just hate groups.

Who are these groups? And where are they? Well, look at the SPLC site and check out the groups in YOUR state. In my state of Massachusetts -- liberal Massachusetts -- there are ten active groups - including the KKK, Aryan Terror Brigade, and other Neo-Nazi, White Nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-GLBT groups. One of them is less than 20 minutes from my house. I will not link to any of these hate sites in this article. If you wish to look them up, do. I did so with many of them. It sickened me. I wanted to see if they really were saying hateful things. I wanted to see if the sites looked like they were assembled in a garage, or were professionally done, an indication of organization and funding.

I found a frightening amount of organization, sites that linked together as brethren in hatred, and a level of hatred that alarmed and disgusted me. And that is in liberal Massachusetts. Check Your State!

I decided to check Google news for "hate crimes" to get a larger picture of what was happening. I looked only at last week's results. Within moments I found:

1. The St. Louis Beacon reporting an increase in national incidents of anti-Muslim hate crimes. "We continue to see a steady stream of violence and discrimination targeting Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South Asian communities," said Thomas E. Perez the U.S. Justice Department's assistant attorney general for civil rights...He said complaints of school and workplace harassment have risen, and the department has opened 14 investigations in the last year into organized opposition to the building of new mosques."

2. A man walking down the street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was beaten savagely by a gang of "hoodie wearing teens" taunting him with anti-gay slurs. He has a broken nose, broken eye sockets, and needed plates in his skull.

3. A report from District Attorney George Gascón, who says that hate crimes are also on the rise in San Francisco.

4. A cross was burned "outside the home of a black family in the prosperous, mainly white California coastal community of Arroyo Grande near San Luis Obispo."

5. In Connecticut, a Jewish cemetery was vandalized by anti-Semitic vandals - for the second time in six months. "Six months ago, swastikas were painted on the backs of six gravestones. The graffiti has now expanded to anti-Semitic messages, defacing a place where many are remembered."

There were screens and screens of examples. I found these literally in a few minutes. I had searched on "hate crimes", and asked only for news articles in the past week. There was an avalanche of articles. Are these groups or individuals? Does it matter? Look at the pattern of dramatic rise here in "Patriot" and Militia Groups:

This entire process woke me up. We all need to wake up to what is happening around us, and to begin doing what we can to end it.

Mark Potok, of the SPLC does not hold out much hope for positive change in the near future. "What seems certain is that President Obama will continue to serve as a lightning rod for many on the political right, a man who represents both the federal government and the fact that the racial make-up of the United States is changing, something that upsets a significant number of white Americans. And that suggests that the polarized politics of this country could get worse before they get better."

Is Potok right? What do you think? What can we all do to stop this trend? What do you think will work?

(This article was recently published on BlogHer.com.)
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