Researchers: Hate groups rising under Trump presidency
Experts on hate groups worry the president’s rhetoric on race and equality appear to incite violence around the U. S.
Photo: Flickr/Robert Thivierge
Researchers say rise in hate groups driven by anger over demographic projections showing that Whites will lose majority status in the country
By DELLA HASSELLE, Contributing Writer
NEW ORLEANS (NAM)— Just days after Heather Heyer was killed protesting a rally of White nationalists held in Charlottesville, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus announced fellow lawmakers would be discussing the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., the caucus chairman, told reporters that lawmakers were outraged by the president’s remarks after the deadly Aug. 12 protest in Charlottesville when Trump insisted there was evidence of hatred, bigotry, and violence “on many sides” during the event.
According to reports, caucus members were set to decide whether Trump shows “pure competency and fitness to serve,” given his choice of words describing a highly charged melee organized by those who espouse White supremacist ideologies.
Since then, Trump has defended his Charlottesville responses. Two days after his initial statement, the president did specifically denounce extremists, calling racism “evil.” Then, omitting the “many sides” remarks during an August rally in Arizona, he blamed the “dishonest people in the media” for unfairly covering his responses.
“I hit them with ‘neo-Nazi.’ I hit them with everything,” Trump said during the Aug. 23 rally. “I got the ‘White supremacists,’ the ‘neo-Nazi.’ I got them all in there. Let’s see. KKK, we have KKK… I got them all.”
Not everybody had accused the president of giving hate groups a pass by prevaricating. Notably, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended the president’s response to the violence seen in Charlottesville.
Despite the debate over Trump’s reactions to Charlottesville, however, Richmond’s comments don’t come out of left field.
Caucus members and experts on hate groups have long worried about the president’s rhetoric on race and equality, and how his words appear to incite violence around the United States.
A week after Heyer was killed, Shuanise Washington, president, and CEO of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Incorporated, underscored that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) counted over 1,800 incidents of hate or bias from the day Trump was elected on Nov. 9, 2016, to March 31, 2017.
The same group counted over 600 such incidents counted in schools throughout the nation, Washington noted, adding that the president’s evocation of “racism, hatred, and intolerance” threatened to “corrupt the arc of progress” that had been made in America over the decades.
“Now, more than ever, the American people need reassurance in the values of liberty, unity, diversity, and equality,” Washington said. “Regrettably, we have been subjected to flaccid remarks and morally bankrupt leadership.”
The numbers Washington cited only scratch the surface of the data collected by the SPLC. In February, the organization released a comprehensive “Intelligence Report” showing significant growth in the annual census of hate groups and other extremist organizations nationwide.
The SPLC found that the number of hate groups operating in 2016 rose to 917, up from 892 in two years prior. While the number remained 101 shy of the “all-time record” set in 2011, the organization called it “high by historic standards.”
Nor did the organization beat around the bush when pointing fingers at why the United States had seen a sharp increase in such organizations.
A black-and-white image of a shouting President Trump dominated the red Intelligence Report cover in large white letters read “THE YEAR IN HATE AND EXTREMISM.”
Underneath, the title read: “AFTER HALF A CENTURY, THE RADICAL RIGHT ENTERS THE MAINSTREAM.”
“2016 was an unprecedented year for hate,” said Mark Potok, senior fellow, and editor of the Intelligence Report. “The country saw a resurgence of White nationalism that imperils the racial progress we’ve made, along with the rise of a president whose policies reflect the values of White nationalists.”
In an article called “The Trump Effect,” Potok claimed Trump had been inciting violence from the radical right since the early days of his campaign trail.
By example, Potok points to an early speech that referred to some Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers. Later, Trump said Muslims should be banned from coming into the country.
Trump has also turned heads by retweeting known White supremacist messages and seeming to encourage — or at least tolerate — violence against his opponents at rallies.
“The hatred and the new energy of the White nationalist movement were predictable results of the campaign Trump waged — a campaign marked by incendiary racial statements, the stoking of White racial resentment, and attacks on so-called “political correctness,” Potok added.
Since those campaign days, that rhetoric, the SPLC argues, has instigated others all over the United States, as shown in a state-by-state analysis of the number and type of hate groups released in the spring.
Describing the numbers, the SPLC said the country had seen “an explosive rise in the number of hate groups” since the turn of the century.
It’s been driven, researchers say, in part by anger over Latino immigration and demographic projections showing that whites will no longer hold majority status in the country by around 2040.
But while the number had started to dip from 1,018 to 784 in 2011, it’s steadily been rising since.
Five states — Vermont, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Wyoming and North Dakota — only had one or two documented hate groups, but most had much more than that. With 79 individual groups, California was found to have the most number out of any other state.
In Louisiana, there were 14 confirmed hate groups, with the “Neo-Nazi” National Socialist Movement showing as the most prevalent.
Now considered the largest neo-Nazi organization in the country, The National Socialist Movement has its roots in the original American Nazi Party, founded in 1959 by former Navy Commander George Lincoln Rockwell.
In 1994 the group was revived when leadership passed to well-known White nationalist Jeff Schoep, who renamed it National Socialist Movement.
The SPLC describes the group as “notable for its violent anti-Jewish rhetoric, its racist views and its policy allowing members of other racist groups to join.”
In their own description, the National Socialist Movement website reads, “all non-White immigration must be prevented.”
Another state-wide group in Louisiana is the Southern National Congress, described as a neo-Confederate organization.
Members with pro-Confederate sentiment often claim to pursue Christianity, heritage and other supposedly fundamental values that modern Americans are seen to have abandoned, according to the SPLC.
Louisiana is also home to Ku Klux Klan groups, anti-Muslim groups and those who identify themselves as Black separatists. According to the SPLC, those members typically oppose integration and racial intermarriage and can be strongly anti-White and anti-Semitic.
In the meantime, since Heyer’s death — and Trump’s response to the actions that caused it — other world leaders are taking notice of the uptick in racial violence in the United States.
On Aug. 23, the U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) criticized the U.S. for “failure at the highest political level to unequivocally reject racist violent events.”
“We are alarmed by the racist demonstrations, with overtly racist slogans, chants and salutes by White nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, promoting White supremacy and inciting racial discrimination and hatred,” CERD Chairperson Anastasia Crickley said in a statement.
“We call on the U.S. government to investigate thoroughly the phenomenon of racial discrimination targeting, in particular, people of African descent, ethnic or ethno-religious minorities, and migrants.”
New America Media is partnering with the Documenting Hate Project, a collaborative of media outlets, civil rights groups and tech companies nationwide working to document the rise of hate crimes and incidents of bias or harassment in the U.S. since the 2016 election.
New America Media/Louisiana Weekly