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Informing Policy: Members of Congress tout SPLC report on hate and extremism

In a new video series, eight members of the U.S. Congress laud the Southern Poverty Law Center for its annual Year in Hate and Extremism report, saying the report helps to inform policy changes to combat far-right extremists who were energized and emboldened by the Trump presidency.

“We know that racist and anti-Semitic violence are the gateway to destruction of American democracy, and we saw it come to our very doorstep on Jan. 6, 2021, so I want to thank [the SPLC] for doing [its] analysis of where hate and extremism find their organizational homes,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland. “This helps us respond to the dynamics of the threat to our democracy.” 

The Year in Hate and Extremism 2020 report, released in February, identifies 838 hate groups and 566 antigovernment extremist groups active across the country last year. The first two years of the Trump administration brought record numbers of hate groups. White nationalist groups rose by 55 percent during that period as white supremacists saw in him an avatar of their grievances and as their ideologies influenced policies like the Muslim ban and separation of immigrant children from families at the border.

“The SPLC has been sounding the alarm for over 30 years about the dangers posed by white supremacists to American democracy,” said Susan Corke, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “We are sounding the alarm again now. The white supremacy movement as a whole has become more violent, and as our SPLC analysts noted in this year’s report, there are many on the far right who are no longer satisfied with letting the state maintain a monopoly on violence.” 

The SPLC’s report this year offers recommendations to curb the rise of hate through dismantling white nationalism and protecting democracy; protecting voting rights and civic engagement; decriminalizing and decarcerating Black and Brown people; and eradicating poverty.  

“The SPLC is more optimistic than ever, because we have allies in Congress who are fighting with us, taking the time to read our reporting, understanding that the time for change is overdue and that the fight for American democracy and against hatred and extremism is a central priority,” Corke said. 

Also participating in the video series were U.S. Reps. Judy Chu of California, Veronica Escobar of Texas, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Jackie Speier of California, in addition to Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Jon Ossoff of Georgia.

Reckoning with a harsh truth

Citing the Jan. 6 insurrection, Durbin recently argued that the federal government has failed to address the growing threat of white supremacist violence and domestic terrorism and has called for aggressive oversight of the government’s efforts to combat the threat. In his video supporting the SPLC’s work, he said the nation must reckon with a harsh truth: that hate is still alive and well in some parts of the country.

“Though the days of flagrant cross burnings and Klan rallies may be behind us, bigotry and racism are not,” Durbin said. “To excise these evils from America once and for all, we must recognize and understand how they take shape today. That is exactly what the SPLC’s Year in Hate report really forces us to do: to track and monitor active hate groups, whether they’re plotting insurrections, vandalizing places of worship or committing other acts of extremism.”

Corke said Congress has a role to play in helping prevent violent extremism and the radicalization of teens and young adults.

“We hope our friends in Congress will use the power of the purse to shift funding away from punishment models and instead focus on programs that build resilient communities and empower adults – including parents, teachers, caregivers, counselors, therapists, faith leaders and coaches – to help steer young people away from dangerous ideas,” she said.

Chu commented in her video that 2020 was “a year like no other,” and that the nation must work to heal itself. “[W]e cannot do that without understanding the true scope of the problem,” Chu said. “That is why this report is so important.

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