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Hate Crimes and Hate Group Activity Rising

Jill Garvey • Dec 16, 2008

Last week I asked our readers if they thought hate crimes were increasing. I posted the poll on a whim; we’d been writing a lot about hate crimes at Imagine 2050 and felt that there was something deeper and more menacing behind the recent spree of attacks. As of this writing 63% of you thought that hate crimes were increasing, and there is mounting evidence that you were right. We already know there has been a steady increase in crimes against Latinos since 2003, as reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This has been attributed to anti-immigrant rhetoric that has gone mainstream thanks to groups like Federation for American Immigration Reform, anti-immigrant politicians and TV commentators, such as Lou Dobbs. And there is a very strong link between the communities where anti-immigrant groups are active and hate crime incidents. But something more acute has happened since election day. Hate crimes and enrollment in white power groups have spiked. This is scary stuff for a country that has much to be proud of these days. And also a wake up call. On Monday seven civil rights organizations came together to to denounce hate crimes and urge congress to pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Christina Pereda at New America Media wrote:

Representatives from NCLR, the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), the National Urban League, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the NAACP and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) decried the recent spike in hate crimes and called for the next administration to address what Mark H. Morial of the National Urban League described as a “pressing issue.”

Representatives of the seven organizations described their fear of a backlash in hate crimes after Barack Obama’s victory in the presidential election.

It’s a good sign that these groups are taking swift action to bring this to the public’s attention, but it’s not enough. It’s not just that violence fueled by hatred has increased; white supremacists are attracting more members. According to Maria Bello of USA Today they are becoming more sophisticated in who and how they recruit potential members.

Supremacist groups are on the rise as they market themselves to middle America, according to leaders of the groups and organizations that monitor them. They are fueled by the debate over illegal immigration and a struggling economy.”Many white supremacist groups are going more mainstream,” says Jack Levin, a Northeastern University criminologist who studies hate crime. “They are eliminating the sheets and armbands. … The groups realize if they want to be attractive to middle-class types, they need to look middle-class.”

It’s imperative that hate groups do not get a foothold in our communities. They are a threat to our immigrant friends and neighbors, and the tradition of our country as a welcoming nation. The rhetoric that they bring with them damages the dialogues our country is having around important issues. The more space we give them, the less we have for rational discourse on the economy, immigration, and foreign affairs. It’s time for Americans to demand a hate free society.

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