A hate group is a social group that advocates and practices hatred, hostility, or violence towards members of a race, ethnicity, nation, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or any other designated sector of society. According to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a hate group’s “primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against persons belonging to a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin which differs from that of the members of the organization.” The study of racism and violence in the United States is necessary to fully understand and report on current events.
An overview of the history of hate groups begins with the Know- Nothings, who targeted Roman Catholic immigrants in the mid- 1800’s for hate activities, including stoning their homes, burning their churches, and forcibly preventing them from voting. Histories of other hate groups focus on the Ku Klux Klan, which intimidated, vandalized, and murdered African-Americans in the South after the Civil War. The activities of the Klan are traced up through the challenges to segregation in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Other hate groups discussed are the Nazis in Germany, contemporary neo-Nazis in America, the Skinheads, and Christian Identity, organized by Wesley Swift to promulgate the belief that whites are the only true children of God.
Two private American non-profit organizations that monitor intolerance and hate groups are the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).They maintain lists of what they deem to be hate groups, supremacist groups and anti-Semitic, anti-government or extremist groups that have committed hate crimes. The SPLC’s definition of a “hate group” includes any group with beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people—particularly when the characteristics being maligned are immutable. However, at least for the SPLC, inclusion of a group in the list “does not imply a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity.” According to USA Today, their list ranges from “white supremacists to black nationalists, neo-Nazis to neo-Confederates.”
Since 2010 the term alt-right, short for “alternative right,” has come into usage. This broad term includes a range of people who reject mainstream conservatism in favor of forms of conservatism that may embrace implicit or explicit racism or white supremacy. The alt-right is described as being “a weird mix of old-school neo-Nazis, conspiracy theorists, anti-globalists, and young right-wing internet trolls—all united in the belief that white male identity is under attack by multicultural, “politically correct” forces.”
Four categories associated with hate groups’ propensity for violence are: organizational capacity, organizational constituency, strategic connectivity, and structural arrangement. The larger an extremist group is and the longer it has existed, the more prone the group is to engage in violence. Regionally, hate groups based in the West and Northeast are more likely to engage in violence than those based in the South. If a group has a charismatic leader, it is more likely to be violent. Groups that share a conflict-based relationship with another group are more likely to engage in extreme violence. The amount of ideological literature a group publishes is linked to significant decreases in a group’s violent behavior, with more literature linked to lower levels of violence.
This article is by no means meant to be an exhaustive study of hate and extremist groups in America. It is merely meant to be an introduction. Frankly, this brief sojourn was quite an eye opener for me. I did not realize that there were so many of these groups in the U.S. I always thought of this country as a society based on altruism, not one where hatred was such a prevalent and common emotion. I still believe our country is made up predominantly of good people. We definitely however, have a long way to go.
I found this quote on the internet. I found it to be quite poignant. I am going to use it as a fitting ending for a very troubling article. The author is Chief Dan George. He was famous for his role in the movie Outlaw Josey Wales. “If you talk to animals, they will talk with you and you will know each other. If you do not talk with them, you will not know them. And what you do not know, you will fear. What one fears, one destroys.”