Not a week goes by without hate crimes making national news — which is bad news for America. The headlines are harrowing. Consider two media reports this week:
- White Supremacist Arrested for Synagogue Bombing Plot in Colorado
- Prosecutors: Acid Attack on Latino Citizen in Milwaukee is Hate Crime
Law enforcement officials characterize some egregious hate crimes by white supremacists as acts of domestic terrorism, as FBI Director Christopher Wray recently told Congress:
A majority of the racially motivated violent extremist domestic terrorism is at the hands of white supremacists.
— FBI Director
The persistent problem of hate crimes by white supremacist groups appears to be getting worse, not better. This is cause for concern for all law-abiding citizens and people of goodwill. That’s why a new book extensively examining the issue is a must-read: When Hate Groups March Down Main Street: Engaging a Community Response (Roman & Littlefield). Co-authors Deborah Levine and Marc Brenman present a disturbingly vivid account of the historical evolution of hate groups and their radical racist ideology. The book also provides smart citizen engagement strategies. Both authors are nationally-recognized experts in the fields of diversity and inclusion, cultural competence, social justice, and equal opportunity.
- “Our goal is to utilize the Big Data of this new environment by organizing the information, tracking trends, reporting on community responses, and recommending strategies that are practical and implementable,” the authors write.
- “By learning what others have done and from scholarly and academic studies, we hope to equip communities to protect themselves and preserve democratic values and the American Dream of social equity and fairness.”
How would you react if neo-Nazis or the KKK demonstrated in your town, perhaps on the street where you live just feet outside your home?
- Would you run or hide from KKK incited violence?
- Would you ignore neo-Nazi propaganda?
- Would you confront racist skinheads wielding tiki torches?
These potentially perilous questions should not be ignored. Although a hyper-localized extremist hate march directly affecting you may appear remote, “The threat is real” — as the authors astutely articulate.
If you think radical white supremacists won’t demonstrate where you live, then you may want to think again. Just ask the citizens of Charlottesville, Virginia, or countless other cities from coast to coast and border to border where racial, religious and ethnic hatred and violence have surfaced at the hands of white supremacist groups.
Hate crimes increased by nearly 20% in 2017, according to the latest FBI data available.
More recent reports suggest this figure may rise again when new annual statistics are issued. Moreover, the number of hate crimes officially reported represent only part of the picture, as many incidents are unreported or incorrectly classified for various reasons. Consider recent data from a 2019 report on hate crimes in 30 big cities across America (conducted by The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University):
- “Hate crimes rose 9 percent in major U.S. cities in 2018, for a fifth consecutive increase, to decade highs, as cities with increases outnumbered those with declines two to one. In contrast, crime overall in major cities has declined in both of the last two years.”
- “Preliminary partial year 2019 data also show increases in a majority of cities surveyed…early double-digit percentage increases.”
- “The most common victims for hate crime reported to police in major cities in 2018 were African Americans, Jews, and Gays, but Whites and Jews experienced the biggest percentage increases, as anti-Semitic hate crimes and assaults also rose internationally.”
- “Jews were the direct target of half of the bias/extremist homicides in 2018, in the worst year ever for anti-Semitic killings in the United States.”
As Levine and Brenman point out in When Hate Groups March Down Main Street:
- “Neo-Nazis and related hate groups desire a country or a state reserved only for whites who practice their perverted form of Christianity.
- “They want to revert to a time of segregated schools and housing. No locale is too big or too small to be a target for their message.”
The racism promoted by these [hate] groups is intended to generate fear and hatred of immigrants and people of color.
The comprehensive topics covered by chapter title in When Hate Groups March Down Main Street include:
- The Local-Global Context
- Hate and Neo-Nazis
- Hate and White Supremacists
- The Hate Message Online
- Hate Crime Connection
- Corporate and Legal Context
- Community Organizing
- Recruitment and Radicalization
- What Is Our Moral Obligation?
- Globalization and Economic Disparities
- Bias, Prejudice, and Hate
- The Special Responsibility of Schools
- Holocaust Education
- Interfaith Efforts
Additionally, the book contains 11 appendices to help foster an effective community response to hate groups, including:
- Example of Anti-Nazi Resolution
- Sample Hate Crimes Policy
- Sample Bias Incident Response Protocol
- Bomb Threat Check List
The topic of hate groups is especially relevant at a time when some assert that President Trump allegedly supports and condones hate crimes against citizens and non-citizens alike based on race, religion, sexual identity and national origin (whether explicitly or implicitly).
Remember that hate groups thrive on spreading lies, conspiracy theories, distortions and misinformation to their cult-like followers and potential recruits, including unknowingly to teens and children online.
Remain vigilant and don’t fall prey to reprehensible rhetoric and racist tactics of white supremacists.
When Hate Groups March Down Main Street is a critically important book at a critically important time. More people of goodwill can benefit from a meticulous educational overview of the origins, ideology, and evolution of hate groups and their callous crimes. The authors share key statistics, case studies, legal and anecdotal evidence, as well as practical leadership lessons and strategies for a new generation of young people, and people of all ages, to combat heinous hate groups.
Again, as the authors suggest, ask yourself the following about extreme white supremacist groups who may come to your town to cause trouble:
“Are you prepared to handle their intimidation, threats, and actions?”
If not, the time is overdue to get ready.