During 1997, the number of hate groups exploded, while hate flooded the internet. Heinous hate crimes also sullied the year with violence.
A man is gunned down on a Denver street because he is "wearing the enemy's uniform" — his black skin. A Klansman in Asheville, N.C., threatens to massacre dounterdemonstrators — "and God forbid if there's any children there." Four white supremacists in Texas plead guilty to plotting to blow up a natural gas plan — a plan they fully expected to kill thousands.
Even as the economy steamed along briskly for most people in 1997, hate spread. While authorities sent increasing numbers of haters to prison, more and more turned to violence around the nation.
Vile hate speech floods the Internet. A Detroit area company that makes its living peddling music with murderous white power lyrics sells 50,000 compact discs a year. Religions based on racial and ethnic hatred spread among tens of thousands of people of all colors. Crosses are burned, homosexuals attacked, classrooms and synagogues defaced. Police officers, bystanders and others are murdered.
Last year, the Intelligence Project documented 474 hate groups and chapters around the country — up about 20 percent from 1996. At least 163 hate sites poison the World Wide Web. Segments of the Klan, after years in decline, grew explosively. Neo-Nazi groups gained significant numbers of new followers. Racist Skinheads made inroads among middle-class teenagers.
Religion Stokes the Fires
Religion, or perversions of religion, helped fuel the hate.
Followers of a racist version of Christianity were charged last year with interpreting the Bible to justify the murder of an entire Arkansas family, including an 8-year-old girl, in pursuit of the "Aryan" republic they planned. Another white racist group was convicted of bombing and robbing banks in Washington, saying the Bible outlaws charging interest.
Still others were convicted of robbing Midwestern banks to build a white "army."
Hate is an equal opportunity employer. Just as white supremacists interpret the Bible to justify their cause, black separatists look to Christianity and other religions to back their views.
Last year, officials began investigating a group of alleged Black Hebrew Israelites, a black supremacist religion, in New Mexico. The group's headquarters are said to be decorated with a mural depicting sword-bearing blacks standing heroically over bloodied white bodies.
Police believe adherents of the same theology may have instigated attacks on officers in Memphis during a Klan rally early this year. And prison officials in several states have noted a rise in black supremacist gang activity.
Following the successful Million Man March in 1995, the Nation of Islam has continued to attract new followers. This year, for the first time, the Intelligence Project lists the Nation and its principal chapters as hate groups. Although the Nation has not been involved in political violence, its tenets are based on racial hatred.
Louis Farrakhan and Race-Based Hate
In an April 1997 interview, Nation leader Louis Farrakhan made it clear that he had renounced none of the anti-white, anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic or anti-homosexual views of the previous Nation leader, Elijah Mohammed.
Those beliefs include the view that Yacub, a renegade black scientist, created whites 6,600 years ago as an inherently evil and ungodly people — "blue-eyed devils." Farrakhan describes Catholics and Jews, who he says practice a "gutter religion," as preying on blacks. He regrets the "tone" of a principal subordinate who calls for slaughtering white South Africans, but agrees with the message. He calls for racial separatism and inveighs against interracial relationships.
If a white group espoused similar beliefs with the colors reversed, few would have trouble describing it as racist and anti-Semitic. We hesitate with a group like the Nation of Islam because we recognize that its racism is largely a response to white racism.
But as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: "Violence begets violence; hate begets hate; and toughness begets a greater toughness. It is all a descending spiral, and the end is destruction — for everybody. Along the way of life, someone must have enough sense and morality to cut off the chain of hate."
If we seek to expose white hate groups, we cannot be in the business of explaining away the black ones.
Also last year, we changed our name. Klanwatch was created in 1981 to monitor the Ku Klux Klan and related white supremacist groups. In 1994, the Center established the Militia Task Force to monitor the emerging antigovernment Patriot Movement.
Now, the Center has established its Intelligence Project as an umbrella for both Klanwatch and the Militia Task Force and to address radical right groups that may not fit neatly into either category.