When white supremacists chanted “You will not replace us” at rallies beginning around 2017, some Americans and mainstream media viewed them as fringe, far-right extremists.
But former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and slogans – such as “Make America Great Again” and “Take back America” – widened the appeal of hateful extremist ideologies and ideas like the “great replacement theory” among white Americans who view Democrats, liberals, people of color, Jewish people and immigrants as their enemies.
In recent years, right-wing extremists have committed the overwhelming majority of domestic extremist terrorist attacks – at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue; an El Paso Walmart; a Buffalo, New York, Tops Friendly Market; and many others. At the same time, extremist rhetoric has eroded trust in the country’s institutions.
Still, it wasn’t until the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that many Americans grasped that the fervent hate speech and conspiracy theories had evolved into a full-blown assault on democracy.
Fast-forward two years.
From Congress and state legislatures to local school boards and election commissions, hate and antigovernment extremist ideologies have again seeped into the country’s political mainstream. Voter suppression laws and policies against inclusive curricula and the LGBTQ+ community have all been influenced by far-right ideologies.
This threat posed by hate and antigovernment extremism, particularly to communities of color and Jewish people, is closely examined in the National Urban League’s 47th annual State of Black America report, Democracy in Peril: Confronting the Danger Within.
The section of the Urban League’s influential, signature report that focuses on hate and extremism this year is the product of a partnership with the Southern Poverty Law Center in collaboration with the Anti-Defamation League and UCLA Law CRT Forward Tracking Project. It was officially released today during an event at Morehouse College and will be distributed to the Urban League’s 92 affiliates around the country and to media outlets and lawmakers.
The report includes four essays from the SPLC, including “Antisemitism: An Engine for anti-Black Racism” – written by Susan Corke, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project and Michael Lieberman, the SPLC’s senior policy counsel for Hate & Extremism.
The essay describes antisemitism as “a connective tissue between hate groups that are otherwise seemingly unconnected” and “often the entry point into the hate movement and … the fuel that feeds white nationalism.”
The Urban League’s report has a reputation for comprehensive analysis, national reach to more than 3 million people and recommended policy solutions intended to influence legislation, private and public sector policies and large community program partnerships.
This year’s report includes essays by 16 contributors, including Marcia Fudge, U.S. secretary for Housing and Urban Development; Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for civil rights; and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker.
“Having our research and policy recommendations included alongside the other powerful insights provided in this influential publication is a demonstration of our allyship with the National Urban League, which does tremendous work to eradicate poverty and address bigotry across the country,” Lieberman said.
A good fit
Each year, the Urban League takes original research conducted by others “to illuminate, emphasize and analyze a particular problem or challenge facing Black America,” said Teresa Candori, who oversaw the report as the Urban League’s director of communications. Last year’s report, Under Siege: The Plot to Destroy Democracy, examined voter suppression.
“One of the triggers [for far-right extremism] we are seeing a lot of is racial anxiety,” Candori said.
In 2010, the U.S. census showed that white people will no longer comprise a majority in the country by 2060. Revisions in 2018 moved that threshold to 2045.
“A lot of people have been pointing to that for the rise of extremism,” Candori said. “The laws that have been passed since 2008 when President Obama won the election are a direct response. Shelby County v. Holder gutted voting rights in 2013. It was no accident that happened after the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections when the Black voting rate skyrocketed.”
In 2008, Black voters cast ballots at an all-time high of 65.2%, nearly equaling the rate of white voters. Four years later, the Black voting rate surpassed that of white voters for the first time in U.S. history.
Candori viewed the SPLC’s Intelligence Project as a “good fit” for collaboration on this year’s topic, because of its internationally recognized expertise in hate and extremism and its monitoring of domestic hate and far-right, antigovernment extremist groups.
“They saw what we do to address the real attacks on democracy and the everyday impacts on Black voters,” said Rachel Carroll Rivas, deputy director of research, reporting and analysis for the Intelligence Project.
“They wanted us to provide original research data and analysis to complement hate incidents, like public polling on people’s acceptance of extremist ideas, extremist candidates, election disinformation, images of the Confederacy and support for political violence.
“We were the right topic experts for this moment,” Carroll Rivas said.
‘Faith and resilience’
For the Urban League’s report, Angela Tuck, senior editor for the Intelligence Project, wrote about the historic role of the Black church in community healing in her essay, “A Portrait in Faith and Resilience: Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.”
Tuck pays tribute to victims and survivors of extremist murders. The Rev. Eric S.C. Manning, the current pastor of Charleston, South Carolina’s Mother Emanuel AME Church, reflects on his personal journey as pastor of the church. Manning assumed his role in 2015 after a white Christian nationalist and neo-Nazi massacred nine parishioners, including the late Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Manning, who was Pinckney’s friend, describes the burden of pastoring a congregation in grief.
“I wanted to show the faith and resilience that no matter what happens we can rise above it,” Tuck said. “And in a real sense, historically, that’s what the Black church is about. It’s been a place of refuge, a safe space for communities, a place of rebellion. As the late Rev. C.T. Vivian often said, ‘Without the Black church, there would have been no civil rights movement.’ It was a lifeline then as now.”
Intelligence Project research analyst Maya Henson Carey’s essay, “The Wrongs of the ‘Parental Rights’ Movement,” examines extremism in education. She shows how banning books, the condemnation of “critical race theory,” strict limits on the teaching of Black history and attacks on LGBTQ+ students by anti-student inclusion groups, politicians and school boards are hurting all students but particularly students of color and students who are gender-nonconforming.
The SPLC is closely watching this modern rise in extremism in education and has serious concern about the impact of anti-student-inclusion groups – such as Moms for Liberty and Moms for America – on public education and school communities, especially Black and LGBTQ+ students and teachers.
For Corke, Lieberman and other Intelligence Project team members – who develop policy recommendations for the U.S. government to address hate and antigovernment extremism – the Urban League report offered the opportunity to reach another large, diverse audience.
Writing that “fighting antisemitism is at the heart of the fight against structural racism,” Corke and Lieberman call for teaching the “unvarnished truth about American history,” lessons learned from the Holocaust and the removal of all restrictions on inclusive education. And they propose a number of federally funded initiatives in education and law enforcement as well as more extensive accountability standards for social media outlets that promote “conspiracy theories, racist or antisemitic ideas or provide a safe haven for extremists.”
Candori said: “The Urban League didn’t just want to present a problem but wanted solutions. In general, we want everyone to be aware of the problem, not just of extremists [at large] but on your school boards, your police departments, the people making your laws. They even want to outlaw electric cars.”
Picture at top: The SPLC is among the collaborators for this year’s State of Black America report by the Urban League. This year’s report, the organization’s 47th, focuses on antigovernment extremism. Pictured: A protester raises a fist during a July 2020 march in New York protesting police brutality and systemic racism in the U.S. (Credit: Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)