I am honored as an American to know good people of many ethnicities and beliefs. In my own extended family, I have people of different beliefs and ethnic backgrounds. I love the beauty and diversity of this country, which at its best can be an example for other parts of the world.
Yet, in the past few years, we have seen a rise in hate groups. As a Reform Jew and an American who values civil liberties for all, I am deeply disturbed by those who look at their fellow Americans with hatred and suspicion. Mark Potok, spokesman and director of publications and information for the Southern Poverty Law Center, was interviewed by Nicole Sandler on
today. Here is an excerpt from the report The Year in Hate 2010.
The Year in Hate 2010
By Mark Potok
Illustration by Sean McCabe
For the second year in a row, the radical right in America expanded explosively in 2010, driven by resentment over the changing racial demographics of the country, frustration over the government’s handling of the economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and other demonizing propaganda aimed at various minorities. For many on the radical right, anger is focusing on President Obama, who is seen as embodying everything that’s wrong with the country.
Hate groups topped 1,000 for the first time since the Southern Poverty Law Center began counting such groups in the 1980s. Anti-immigrant vigilante groups, despite having some of the political wind taken out of their sails by the adoption of hard-line anti-immigration laws around the country, continued to rise slowly. But by far the most dramatic growth came in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement — conspiracy-minded organizations that see the federal government as their primary enemy — which gained more than 300 new groups, a jump of over 60%.
Taken together, these three strands of the radical right — the hatemongers, the nativists and the antigovernment zealots — increased from 1,753 groups in 2009 to 2,145 in 2010, a 22% rise. That followed a 2008-2009 increase of 40%.
What may be most remarkable is that this growth of right-wing extremism came even as politicians around the country, blown by gusts from the Tea Parties and other conservative formations, tacked hard to the right, co-opting many of the issues important to extremists. Last April, for instance, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed S.B. 1070, the harshest anti-immigrant law in memory, setting off a tsunami of proposals for similar laws across the country. Continuing growth of the radical right could be curtailed as a result of this shift, especially since Republicans, many of them highly conservative, recaptured the U.S. House last fall.