The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.
The nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court of Sonia Sotomayor, who would become the court’s first Hispanic if confirmed, has been met by a cacophony of right-wing attack dogs sounding a single furious note: “Racist!”
Reacting to Sotomayor’s membership in the Latino rights organization National Council of La Raza and comments she has made on her judging, radio fulminator Rush Limbaugh compared her to KKK leader David Duke, suggesting she is a “reverse racist.” William Gheen, president of the nativist extremist group Americans for Legal Immigration, called her a “brown or Hispanic supremacist.” Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, the Colorado Republican and one-time presidential candidate who long headed the far-right Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, attacked Sotomayor for her membership in La Raza, which he said was a “Latino KKK.” Republican former House Speaker Newt Gingrich described the high court nominee on Twitter as a “Latina woman racist” and said she should withdraw.
Now comes the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist hate group which has called black people a “retrograde species of humanity,” with its own special addition: a computer-generated “photo” of “whitey-hating” Sotomayor in Klan robes that fits in well with the tenor of the more “mainstream” attacks from politicians, pundits and nativist leaders.
That’s par for the course for the gutturally racist CCC, which is descended from the White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s that battled school desegregation. Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court Justice, once referred to that group as “the uptown Klan.”
Despite the furious comments from people like Tancredo, La Raza is hardly a racist group — indeed, it is a thoroughly mainstream human rights organization.
As to her comments, Sotomayor is being attacked for saying in a 2001 university lecture that she “would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white man who hasn’t lived that life.” President Obama said earlier this week that Sotomayor wishes she had phrased that differently, but that the comments simply suggested that a diversity of experience helped judges make good decisions. Sotomayor made similar remarks, saying earlier this week: “My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept that there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage.”
The Louisiana Klan leader indicted for the murder of a woman who tried to quit his group coerced three of his sons to join the Klan and used threats of violence to keep members from leaving, according to an interview with his wife in the latest issue of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report, released today. The case has brought back troubling memories of a town where Klansmen fiercely resisted the civil rights movement.
Theresa Foster said her husband, Raymond Charles “Chuck” Foster, “threatened everybody,” creating the volatile atmosphere surrounding Cynthia Lynch’s death last November near Bogalusa, La. She also describes the days leading up to Lynch’s death and her attempt to dissuade the Oklahoma woman from joining the Klan.
“The way I look at it is, Raymond Foster is wholly to blame for what happened,” she told the Intelligence Report.
Lynch signed up to join the Sons of Dixie Knights of the Ku Klux Klan after apparently reading Foster’s MySpace page. She traveled to Bogalusa by bus from Tulsa to be initiated into the group. Foster allegedly shot her when she asked to leave, and other members of the group helped cover up the murder.
Lynch’s death put the spotlight on Bogalusa, a town that was once such a hotbed of Klan activity that it was dubbed “Klantown, U.S.A.” Today, local officials who believed the Klan was a relic of Bogalusa’s past are re-evaluating this town where stark racial divisions still exist and the Klan remains a lurking presence.
“The town where Raymond Foster formed his Klan group may be the most telling aspect of this tragic story,” said Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report, a quarterly investigative journal that monitors the radical right. “This is a town where longtime black residents say they still live separate and unequal lives more than 40 years after the civil rights movement.” ( continue to full post… )
For almost 30 years, Leonard Zeskind has been researching and writing about the white nationalist movement in America. After years of working in heavy industry and simultaneously organizing white workers and youths against racism, Zeskind in 1985 became the research director of the National Anti-Klan Network, an Atlanta-based organization that was later renamed the Center for Democratic Renewal, where he worked to battle a resurgence of the Klan and white nationalism generally. In the years since then, he has continued researching as an independent scholar whose work has been recognized with a 1998 “genius” fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and several other awards. Sixteen years ago, Zeskind began work on what became an authoritative book on the last 30 years of the white nationalist movement. On May 19, the book — Blood and Politics: The History of the White Nationalist Movement from the Margins to the Mainstream — was published to good reviews. Not long before publication, Zeskind sat down with Hatewatch to discuss some of the views he has developed over the course of a lifetime observing the American radical right.
You’ve spent decades doing anti-racist work and tracking the white nationalist movement. How did you get started in this, Lenny?
While I was studying in a bar mitzvah class, we read Black Like Me [a 1961 book by John Howard Griffin detailing his harrowing experiences as a white man disguised as a black man], and the local NAACP president spoke at the synagogue the Friday before my bar mitzvah. So it was part of my life in the Jewish community.
Eventually, I came to understand that white people needed to address the problem of racism in other white people. So I got involved in trying to organize the younger white people in the working-class neighborhood I was living in. I spent 13 years in heavy industry, working as a grassroots organizer.
I started paying attention to the resurgence of white supremacist activity in the 1970s, around ’77, ’78. I started reading racist publications and helped put out a little magazine with a small group in Kansas City starting in 1982. But the real moment of transformation for me was in 1984 when I found a picture of Bob Weems as chairman of the Populist Party [a far-right party started by anti-Semite Willis Carto and others that year]; at the same time, I was looking at another picture of Weems leading a meeting of the Klan. The following year, I became a paid professional in the field [at the Anti-Klan Network], rather than an unpaid volunteer.
Before we get into some of the details, how is your book different than others that have traced much of the same history?
I tried to write about the white nationalist world as a movement in which the organizations meant less as individual organizations and more as springboards for the interaction of all these groups’ different tendencies and ideologies. I tried to describe how the movement developed a political identity and self-consciousness. To the extent that it does that, it grows.
One of the things that became evident to me is that much of the language and many of the concepts we tend to use have lost whatever analytical power they once had. One idea that isn’t helpful is the untested assumption that economic distress, direct and unmediated, drives the tendency towards racism and white supremacist organizing. If you look at the votes [former Klan leader] David Duke got in 1990 and 1991, they came from ordinary middle-class white people — not just those who were the most poverty-stricken. More, the concepts of left and right have lost a lot of their explanatory power. Who’s on the left, who’s on the right, in Russia and Eastern Europe today? I can’t tell. ( continue to full post… )
A major nativist rally scheduled for this Saturday in Shenandoah, Pa., the coal town where an all-white jury recently acquitted two high school football players in the July 2008 beating death of a Mexican immigrant, has been canceled. The move came after some of the groups involved learned that rally organizer Joe Miller had invited a well-known Pennsylvania white nationalist to speak.
The scheduled speaker, John DeNugent, is a frequent contributor to virulently anti-Semitic and racist online forums and writes regularly for The Barnes Review, a Holocaust denial journal.
“I guess they were concerned about his political views, and him being — I’m not really sure of what group he’s even affiliated with — and being a white supremacist, or whatever they called him,” Miller told The Republican & Herald.
Miller’s fellow activists had good cause for concern. DeNugent has posted more than 1,000 messages to the racist online forum Stormfront in recent years. However, he was banned from that forum earlier this year after he apparently threatened Stormfront moderator Don Black following Black’s request that DeNugent tone down the implied threats of violence in his posts.
DeNugent was enraged by the arrest of Henrik Hollapa, a young, Finnish neo-Nazi who fled to the U.S. last year after he was charged with inciting violence against Finnish citizens of Somali descent. Hollapa was living with DeNugent in a rural Pennsylvania home when he was taken into custody by federal agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. ( continue to full post… )
Three weeks after an all-white jury in Shenandoah, Pa., acquitted two local high school football stars of beating to death a Mexican immigrant — a verdict that many observers called a blatant act of jury nullification — pro-immigrant and anti-immigrant forces alike are using the murder of Luis Ramirez as a rallying cry.
Last week, pro-immigrant forces cheered news that the U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation into Ramirez’s death and the way local authorities handled the case. Earlier this month, a Schuylkill County, Pa., jury found high school football stars Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak not guilty of homicide, ethnic intimidation and aggravated assault. Both were convicted of simple assault.
A few days later, a coalition of immigrant-bashing groups announced plans to hold a rally against illegal immigration in Shenandoah on Saturday, May 30. The groups include United Patriots of America, a nativist extremist group based in Linden, N.J., that’s known for conducting surveillance of day labor centers, and You Don’t Speak For Me!, a group created and funded by the Federation for American Immigration Reform that purports to represent Hispanic-Americans. “My main concern is getting these illegals off the streets, out of this town, and bringing forth the legal Mexican-American community,” rally organizer Joe Miller told The Republican & Herald, a regional newspaper.
Saturday’s rally will mark the second major nativist rally in Shenandoah since Ramirez, a 25-year-old father of two, was kicked to death in July 2008 by white teens shouting racial epithets. Six weeks after Ramirez was killed, the nativist extremist group Voice of the People held a “pro-immigration enforcement” rally near the site of the murder. The attending crowd of roughly 50 included several members of the Keystone State Skinheads, a Harrisburg, Pa.-based racist skinhead gang.
The New York Times reported last week that racial tensions in Shenandoah intensified after the verdict, with racist threats, vandalism and fights on the rise.
Wendell Hannigan argues that Latinos are bringing gang violence and “overtaking” the members of the Yakama Nation, a Native American tribe whose reservation is located 160 miles southeast of Seattle.
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Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt was in Washington, D.C. to voice his support for a study by the nonpartisan Police Foundation that found many problems with a controversial immigration law enforcement program being pushed by anti-immigration forces.
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At least five anti-immigration groups, including United Patriots of America and You Don’t Speak For Me, are planning to participate in a May 30 rally in Shenandoah, Pa., where an all-white jury recently acquitted white teens of beating to death a Mexican immigrant.
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Jeff Schwilk — the hot-tempered leader of the San Diego Minutemen, a nativist extremist organization with a reputation for violent confrontations and crude insults — has been ordered to pay $135,000 to a Korean-American civil rights activist who filed a defamation lawsuit against Schwilk and SDMM founding member and former spokesman Ray Carney in 2007.
Joanne Yoon sued Carney and Schwilk for $1 million after the men circulated photos of her in late 2006 along with comments referring to her as “the Korean anorexic ACLU slut.” Yoon, who was then 24, helped monitor SDMM rallies for the American Civil Liberties Union. The images of her were posted to a Yahoo group titled “Korean Kommie Kunt.” Ever the sensitive soul, Schwilk changed the name of the group to “Joanne Yoon ACLU Goon” after female SDMM activists objected. But that didn’t stop Carney from sending a mass E-mail to SDMM members suggesting that Yoon was interested in protecting the civil rights of Mexican immigrants because of her fondness for “Brown Schlong.”
Schwilk was ordered to pay compensatory damages yesterday after a Superior Court jury decided against him. Punitive damages will be decided May 26. The court also entered a default judgment against Carney, who did not file a response to Yoon’s lawsuit.
Schwilk’s attorney called the decision “an injustice” and vowed to file an appeal.
Nearly 90 members of a Southern California Latino street gang were arrested today for engaging in “systematic efforts to rid the community of African-Americans with a campaign of shootings and other attacks,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles.
Five indictments unsealed today charged 147 members and associates of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens street gang with 476 “overt acts” of racketeering that include murder, attempted murder, drug and weapons trafficking, extortion and witness intimidation. The main indictment said that members of the gang “have expressed a desire to rid the city of Hawaiian Gardens of all African-Americans and have engaged in a systematic effort to achieve that result by perpetrating crimes against African-Americans.” The city is reportedly 73% Latino and 4% black.
In a press conference, U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien said it was “the largest gang takedown in history.”
The investigation of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang began in 2005, after a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy was killed while attempting to arrest a gang member charged with shooting an African-American man.
In 2006, the Intelligence Report, published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, reported on Latino gangs’ efforts to carry out “ethnic cleansing” attacks on blacks that were meant to establish purely Latino neighborhoods. The story revealed that gang members were acting of orders from the Mexican Mafia gang. Members of the Avenues, a Latino gang, targeted blacks in Highland Park, an L.A. neighborhood. And last year, Los Angeles police launched a major investigation into another Latino street gang accused of targeting blacks.