Hate in America (Part 1): Where is it?

Steve Gillespie

The Southern Poverty Law Center released its annual report on hate this month.

It’s interesting to see where different hate groups are located in our country. They are like little support groups you can join and find friends who hate the same people you do.

According to the SPLC there are 838 such groups in the United States.

The good news is that number has decreased two years in a row. There were 940 documented hate groups in the U.S. in 2019 and a record-high 1,020 in 2018.

The bad news is that doesn’t necessarily mean the threat of hateful people has declined. On Jan. 27 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security put out a National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin, stating it is “due to a heightened threat environment across the United States, which DHS believes will persist in the weeks following the successful Presidential Inauguration.” The advisory was put in place to expire on April 30. “DHS does not have any information to indicate a specific, credible plot; however, violent riots have continued in recent days and we remain concerned that individuals frustrated with the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances and ideological causes fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize a broad range of ideologically-motivated actors to incite or commit violence.”

The SPLC isn’t the only organization that tracks hate groups and extremism, DHS does it, too. So does the FBI.

One thing that may have contributed to the lower number of hate groups has been the lack of in-person meetings because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though some of these silly people already wear masks – or hoods – it’s just not a safe way to plot the destruction of others right now.

Also, the SPLC says: “Hate groups are increasingly being kicked off their mainstream social media platforms and communicating in encrypted chatrooms, making it harder to track their activities.”

Last year the old fashioned form of spreading hate propaganda also was revived. SPLC recorded 4,900 incidents in which hate groups distributed flyers with racist or extremist content. That’s a big increase compared to 1,500 incidents documented in 2019.

So where is all this hate?

Most of the hate groups identified are, as one would imagine, in the states with the most people in them.

California is No. 1 with 72 hate groups, and it is the most populated state.

Florida is No. 2 in hate groups with 68, and it is third in population.

Pennsylvania has 36 hate groups and it ranks fifth in population

Texas has 54 hate groups and it is No. 2 in population

New York has 37 hate groups and it is the fourth most populated state

Tennessee has 34 hate groups among its population, which is ranked 16th

Virginia has 33 hate groups and it is No. 12. in population

North Carolina and Georgia are tied for eighth place with 29 hate groups each. North Carolina is ninth in population and Georgia is eighth.

Michigan has 25 hate groups and it is the 10th most populated state

Ohio finishes out the top 10 states with the most hate groups with a total of 21, and it is the seventh most populated state

What I haven’t been able to find is how many people are in each of these groups. I’d like to think there’s no more than three in any given one, but I know that’s not the case. In its own words, the SPLC defines a hate group as: “An organization or collection of individuals 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 immutable characteristics. An organization does not need to have engaged in criminal conduct or have followed their speech with actual unlawful action to be labeled a hate group. We do not list individuals as hate groups, only organizations.”

The hate groups identified by the SPLC vilify others because of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, which kind of falls in line with the FBI’s definition of a hate crime: “A criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

It’s pretty simple, and yet some people in Arkansas, one of three states that doesn’t have its own hate crimes law to enhance the penalties for such crimes – which is supported by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a former U.S. Attorney – still fight it. I’m proud that our governor understands it is needed and has pushed for it.

In Arkansas, by the way, with an estimated population of 3,030,522, we have 14 active hate groups. Our population is less than 32 other states, the territory of Puerto Rico, and even 5.3 million less than the city of New York, and about 930,000 less than the city of Los Angeles. At least California, with its 72 hate groups, has 39.3 million people in it.

Next week I’ll share information on who’s hating who.

Steve Gillespie is editor of The Times Dispatch. Email him at thetd.com.

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