Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Exposing Hate Groups

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. The SPLC was co-founded in 1971 by civil rights lawyer Morris Dees (b. 1937), who continues to serve as the “Chief Trial Attorney” for the organization.
The SPLC’s primary publication is the quarterly Intelligence Report. “The Year in Hate and Extremism 2011” is the theme of last month’s issue, and according to their calculation, for the first time in the history of the organization the number of hate groups in the U.S. now totals more than 1000.
The FBI explains that the primary purpose of hate groups 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.”
SPLC points out that while there are now 1,018 active hate groups in the U.S., that does not imply that all those groups advocate engaging in violence or other criminal activity. Still, they foster hatred toward others. The main types are black separatists, Klansmen, neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, and white nationalists. Other hate groups on the list target gays or immigrants.
The SPLC also publishes a “Hate Map,” indicating the location of their identified hate groups. Since I live in Missouri, I was sorry to see that there are 26 such groups to be found in MO, which is above the average per State. Of those, five are identified as “White Nationalists,” there are four each of groups typed as “Christian Identity,” Ku Klux Klan, “Neo-Nazi,” and “Racist Skinhead,” and three are “Black Separatist.”
In Kansas, only three hate groups are listed, one being Westboro Baptist Church, whose “over-the-top” anti-gay activities are widely known—and an embarrassment to most Christians, especially to those who are members of Baptist churches.
The Ku Klux Klan is, of course, one of the oldest (first formed in 1865) and best known hate groups in the U.S., and it was a bit disconcerting to see that four KKK groups are currently active in MO. Other groups, not so well known but also influential in some circles, include the neo-Nazi Nationalist Socialist Movement, the white supremacy group known as the Council of Conservative Citizens, and the Kingdom Identity Ministries, which has played a key role in advancing the Christian Identity movement since the early 1980s.
In addition, SPLC has identified some more “mainstream” Christian organizations as also being hate groups, much to the consternation of those organizations, such as the American Family Association, founded in 1974 by Donald Wildmon, and the Family Research Council, led by Tony Perkins since 2003.
When groups exists wholly, or even partly, for the purpose of discriminating against and demeaning people who are not white (Aryan), not Christians, or not heterosexuals, etc., they should be exposed as hate groups and opposed by people of good will.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is rendering a valuable service in exposing hate groups and their activities. I am happy that June and I have been supporting members of SPLC since 2004, the year we left Japan and began living in the U.S. again.


  1. I too am glad that there is someone who will expose these hate groups! It is sad that many of these people call themselves Christians. It baffles me how they can justify their actions. I am appauled and astounded at the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church. I did not know their was a map, but will definetly go check it out. We do know from experience where some of these groups reside, but the map will probably show that they are all over.

  2. We (I) often think that "community building" and "organizing" are positive values, but these hate groups give that a bad name. Westboro Baptist Church might give all churches a bad name. But sociologists point out that "bonding social capital" alone can lead to Belfast and Bosnia, to cite two recent metaphors for religious and ethnic hatred and violence. We need to expand into "bridging social capital" between groups, which is much harder and more rare. David Nelson's Vital Conversations is one initiative along these lines. Can Facebook be helpful here? Give us some direction, Leroy!

  3. The upward trend in the number of hate groups is certainly evident in the graph you posted.I suspect that is indicative of other changes taking place within our society. Increased polarization between social groups is probably related to the rise in the number of hate groups.

  4. I have just deleted comments posted by someone I don't know. He posted very negative things about the SPLC, as he has done on other blogs and websites. While I welcome opposing viewpoints and encourage dialogue, what he posted seemed to be too much like a screed to be helpful.

    You can find various websites that criticize the SPLC for various things, some of which may be worthy of criticism. But most of the criticism comes from people who are affiliated with or supportive of groups listed by SPLC as hate groups.

    Some people are so negative about SPLC that they even have produced posters proclaiming that SPLC itself is a hate group.

    But although there are probably some weaknesses in the SPLC (what organization is perfect?), I stand by my claim that they perform an important task in researching and exposing hate groups in the U.S.

  5. I'm resisting the temptation to say: I hate hate groups. :-)

  6. In sort of the same vein as Anton wrote, another Thinking Friend wrote in an e-mail, "Would it be a hate crime 'to promote animosity' toward drunk drivers, pedaphilas, Islamist, murders, and militarist?"

    In response to the latter I wrote, Certainly is is not wrong to hate the deaths, injuries, and psychological damage caused by drunk drivers, pedophiles, and the like. But what we hate is what is done, not the persons causing the deaths, etc. (This is along the line of "hate the sin, but love the sinner.")

    The hate groups are hateful toward people because of who they are, not just what they do. That is, people are hated because they are black, Jews, homosexuals, etc.

    So maybe it is OK to hate hate groups' activities, but not the people in those groups.

  7. Sad to see good, main stream organizations included. (Does the indicate how the good organizations are polarizing as well?) Also sad to think back on personal experience with a very racist Executive Director of a local NAACP branch (probably not included in the SPLC list) - he was opposed to non-African American groups moving into his area and limiting the government resources to "his people" - Africans, Asians, middle easterners, and Latin Americans - all documented and legal, or citizens who he wanted to move away or be dropped from government subsidies.

    Your push for dialogue is still needed, and some Christian groups, both liberal and conservative do attempt this. You are probably most familiar with Jim Wallis, but I can think of at least three conservative Christian intentionally organizations attempting this as well.

    My personal encounter with the ACLU would lead me to put them on a bigot list as well.

  8. Unfortunately there are bad apples in just about every good organization. Does that spoil the whole barrel? Probably not. A look at the organizational mission statements would be a telling place for determination of a real hate group.

    Just a curiosity... Is the definition of "hate" as variable as that of "Christian"? If so, it would probably include all religious groups, political groups, and cultures, depending on the who sets the definition.

  9. In response to the previous two comments, let me share the mission statement of ACLU:

    "The ACLU is our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country."

    The rights they defend begin with the First Amendment and freedom of speech. Their defense of that freedom sometimes seems rather extreme to a lot of people. Still, how can a group acting under this mission statement be considered a hate group?

  10. In his comments above, 1sojourner referred to "good, main stream organizations" that were included in the list of hate groups. The American Family Association (AFA) was, no doubt, one of the "good" organizations he had in mind.

    Let me respond to this briefly: to say that some organization is a hate group does not mean that everything they do is bad or hateful. The AFA, and likely many other organizations listed as hate groups, does much that is good and commendable. They are not charged with "total depravity," to use the old Calvinist term.

    But the AFA and some other conservative Christian organizations are designated hate groups because of what they say in opposition to gays and lesbians. This is clear from what the SPLC says in their explanation the AFA. Here is the link (which will have to be copied and pasted in the URL bar in order to access) to the website that tells why the AFA is listed as a hate group: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/groups/american-family-association.

  11. The SPLC seems to have a fairly weak definition of hate, which includes most of traditional, orthodox Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and others who generally behave honorably for the benefit of society, especially the oppressed (Jesus Christ would have to be included, from his statements - using Webster's definition of hate). Any group could easily set out a good definition of hate which might include the SPLC. Name calling just causes polarity and does not help build bridges with people and organizations of goodwill. Having personally been called names by people on the left and right(including the ACLU and NAACP, and various truly well-meaning right-wing and Christian groups as well, I say it is time to find commonality and build on it. I also remember the NBC and AME pastors expressing very vocal displeasure at a city council meeting when sexual orientation was added to the list of protected civil rights. Does that make those denominations hate groups? I doubt my gay and lesbian friends would call me hateful (Dave, Brian, Cindy, Mark, Dennis, Danny, John, Jon).

    My guess is that most are "hateful" by someone's definition. However, I will continue to work at building the bridges. May the SPLC (and ALL of us) begin to learn that lesson better. There are enough groups whose behavior truly is hateful and abominable.