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Report: Hate Group Count Hits 20-Year High Amid Rise in White Supremacy

Are you concerned about hate groups?

by Countable | 2.21.19

What’s the story?

  • The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization that tracks hate groups, has found a 30 percent increase in U.S. hate groups over the past four years and a 7 percent increase in hate groups in 2018.
  • The SPLC designated 1,020 organizations as hate groups in 2018—a 20 year high.

What does the report say?

  • The SPLC defines a hate group as an organization that "based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities — has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people typically for their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity."
  • "Much of the energy on the radical right this year was concentrated in the white supremacist milieu," the report says. "After a lull that followed the violence in Charlottesville, which brought criminal charges and civil suits that temporarily dampened the radical right's activism and organizing, newer groups gathered momentum."
  • Though many groups are adding members, the SPLC found the Ku Klux Klan appears to be in decline.
"The KKK has not been able to appeal to younger racists, with its antiquated traditions, odd dress and lack of digital savvy. Younger extremists prefer ... polo shirts and khakis to Klan robes," the report says.

What is the reaction to the report?

  • Not surprisingly, the impetus for the rise in hate group activity has been linked to President Donald Trump.
  • "The numbers tell a striking story — that this president is not simply a polarizing figure but a radicalizing one," Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, said in a statement.
"Rather than trying to tamp down hate, as presidents of both parties have done, President Trump elevates it — with both his rhetoric and his policies. In doing so, he's given people across America the go-ahead to act on their worst instincts."
  • But as NPR and other outlets have reported, the SPLC has been accused of “blurring the line between watchdog and activist” in the Trump era.
  • “Critics accuse the group of overblowing the threat of hate and including groups and individuals on its lists who might not belong,” NPR explains, “from anti-immigrant groups to exclusionary religious organizations.”
  • These include the Catholic Family Ministries (listed as a "general hate group"), the Conservative Republicans of Texas (branded “anti-gay”), and the Center for Immigration Studies (an anti-immigration conservative think-tank).
  • The CIS and two other groups are suing the SPLC for their inclusion, saying they shouldn't be considered hate groups.
  • "We stand by our hate group listings," Beirich said in a press call. "I would suggest that people take a look at our extremist files ... The Center for Immigration Studies, the group has a history of making racially inflammatory statements associating with white nationalists and circulating the work of racist writers."

What do you think?

Are you concerned about the rise in hate crimes? Or is the SPLC “overblowing the threat of hate”? If there is a rise, does the president hold some responsibility? Take action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.

—Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: Carla Kote via Flickr)

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