Hate groups have been energized rather than chastened by the violent confrontations in Charlottesville last weekend. Some are planning more marches according to the “New York Times.” There is now a plausible scenario in which racial violence grows into something akin to a new civil war.
As hate groups come out of the shadows and into the streets, and as some of them link their open bigotry to Donald Trump’s “take back America” and “make American great again” themes, it is obvious that the ideological divisions among Americans today include very different definitions of “great.” There is a passionate demographic in which “great” means “white.”
In our society where we celebrate civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights, we now have hate rights – the white nationals, neo-Nazis and anti-government militants who are using their First Amendment rights of speech and assembly to vomit vile values in the streets and in front of our children.
For several decades now, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has tracked hate groups in the United States. It counts more than 900 of them today. It says the number is increasing in part because of anger over immigration and demographic changes that will make whites a minority in America by 2040 or so.
“The rise (in hate groups) accelerated in 2009, the year President Obama took office, but declined after that,” the SPLC says,
in part because large numbers of extremists were moving to the web and away from on-the-ground activities. In the last two years, in part due to a presidential campaign that flirted heavily with extremist ideas, the hate group count has risen again.
It was Trump who flirted with extremist ideas during last year’s campaign. He has continued that flirtation as president with his plans for a wall on the Mexican border, his ban on Muslim immigrants, his kowtows to one of the country’s craziest conspiracy alarmists, radio host Alex Jones, and his latest notion that even legal immigration should exclude people who want to take the risk of coming to America jobless and penniless to search for freedom and opportunity.
Whatever his personal beliefs and biases are, Trump apparently wants to keep hate groups in his base where it is alright to be alt-right, even when it’s all wrong. But the hate contingent on the far right is not only wrong; it exhibits the ugliest form of tribalism and bigotry. It celebrates the worst chapter in American history and one of the worst in world history. It is a disgusting affront to the freedom, respect for diversity and dedication to equality that has been the United States’ historic mission.
It appears that Trump’s belated rebuke of these groups will not deter them from more activism. They assume that he was forced to do it. They plan to keep marching. It is likely that counter demonstrators will continue showing up. They are passionate, too, because they feel the American ideal must be defended. The confrontations are not likely to be civil.
So how do we prevent what could become a new civil war, not between North and South but between two radically different visions of America? The SPLC offers 10 responses to hate groups such as building diverse coalitions to stand up to hate; supporting the victims of hate crimes; speaking out against extremist views; avoiding hate rallies in favor of alternatives like organizing unity events; pressuring leaders and elected officials to become active and vocal in countering hate; being honest about our own prejudices; and helping children appreciate diversity by exposing them to multicultural situations.
What hate groups, particularly white supremacists, do not understand is that America has never been a white nation and it never will be. From the moment the first white foot stepped onto North American soil, our history has been about immigration, conflicts with newcomers and eventual assimilation. With the exception of Native Americans, there is no race in the United States today that can claim sole ownership of the country.
We whites had better get used to it. We will be a minority a few decades from now. It would be a good idea for us to treat minorities today like we will want our children to be treated in the future.