I never expected the election of Barack Obama as President to bring racial harmony to our country, but I also didn’t expect the vitriol of hatred that has arisen by putting an African American in the White House.
Seven years after Obama’s election, hate appears to be more intense than ever. In its annual Year In Hate and Extremism report, the Southern Poverty Law Center said the number of U.S. hate groups increased to 892 last year, up from 784 in 2014. SPLC officials said so-called “Patriot” groups that are anti-government like the group who took over a bird refuge in Oregon grew from 874 in 2014 to 998.
Of the 892 incidents of hate, ranging from racist epithets to racist graffiti to beatings, 38 of them were directed at Asians and or Asian Americans.
This growth came amid a series of lethal terrorist attacks by extremists. In June, a white supremacist murdered nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. In December, Islamist radicals killed 14 people at a work party in San Bernardino, California – just days after an anti-abortion extremist killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. These were just the worst of numerous other attacks and foiled extremist plots reviewed in this issue.
“After seeing the bloodshed that defined 2015, our politicians should have worked to defuse this anger and bring us together as a nation,” Potok said. “Unfortunately, the carnage did little to dissuade some political figures from spouting incendiary rhetoric about minorities. In fact, they frequently exploited the anger and polarization across the country for political gain.”
The nonprofit also noted an uptick in anti-Muslim behavior, which it linked to terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and the hateful speech from Republican presidential candidates.
Vanita Gupta, who heads the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, also noted during a White House address said:
“Similar to what we saw after 9/11, in recent weeks following the terrible and tragic attacks in San Bernardino and Paris — and amidst a ratcheting up of divisive rhetoric around religious intolerance —community members and advocates have reported an uptick in hate-related incidents targeting Muslim Americans, as well as those perceived, rightly or wrongly, as being Muslim,” he said.
GOP frontrunner Donald Trump opened his campaign by describing the Mexicans coming to America as criminals and rapists. He also called for restrictions for Syrian refugees and for the temporary halt of any Muslim immigration.
Standard talking points from all the remaining GOP Presidential candidates on immigration include the deportation of over 11 million undocumented immigrants and overturning the executive actions of President Obama that would allow the children of undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and a long path to citizenship for their parents.
SPLC President Richard Cohen notes that “[o]ver 60 percent of the people who support Trump believe that President Obama is a secret Muslim and wasn’t born in this country.” The report points to the presidential election cycle as one of the primary reasons for the rising number of hate groups across the U.S., saying last year was marked by a level of hate speech in mainstream politics not seen in decades.
The report also noted that the number of black separatist groups, which it categorizes as hate groups, has risen from 113 in 2014 to 180 in 2015.
“We think that the growth of these groups is due almost entirely to the very dramatic attention that has been paid over the past year to police violence against black men,” said SPLC Senior Fellow Mark Potok. The group simultaneously notes the number of active Ku Klux Klan groups increased to 190 in 2015 after falling between 2013 and 2014.
In general, Potok said, he would describe 2015 “as a year that very nearly approaches the political upheavals of 1968 — a time of real trial for this country.”
(Ed Diokno writes a blog :Views From The Edge: news and analysis from an Asian American perspective.)
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