Number of neo-Nazi and black nationalist hate groups grew in 2017, SPLC says

For the first time in eight years, hate groups were found in all 50 states, the Southern Poverty Law center says ...

Posted: Feb. 22, 2018 9:04 AM
Updated: Feb. 22, 2018 9:04 AM

For the first time in eight years, hate groups were found in all 50 states, the Southern Poverty Law center says in a new report.

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And it isn't just white supremacist groups on the rise in America -- 2017 also saw a growth in black nationalist hate groups, the nonprofit group dedicated to tracking hate in America said in its annual report.

"Not surprisingly, the ranks of black nationalist hate groups -- groups that have always been a reaction to white racism -- expanded to 233 chapters in 2017, from 193 the previous year," the SPLC report stated.

The SPLC counts anti-LGBT groups and anti-Muslim groups as hate groups -- as well as some black nationalists, who typically oppose interracial marriage and want a separate nation for black people, according to the group.

Some black nationalist groups, like the Nation of Islam, have contested the SPLC's designation in the past, calling themselves a self-defense organization, Zain Abdullah, associate professor of religion and society and Islamic studies at Temple University, said in an interview with NPR.

The SPLC cited two factors contributing to the growth of what it deemed black nationalist hate groups. Firstly, the increase in racial bias incidents and attacks by white supremacists, most notably the Unite the Right rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville, Virginia. And secondly, the perceived support of white nationalist ideals by President Donald Trump.

Trump signed a formal resolution condemning white supremacy after he drew criticism for saying there were "fine people" on both sides of a confrontation between neo-Nazis and counterprotesters in Charlottesville.

This year's annual report says the number of hate groups in the country has increased 20% since 2014. Overall, there were 954 hate groups in the United States in 2017, the report says, up from 917 in 2016, and 892 in 2015. It's unclear how many people belong to each group, since many of them are secretive about their operations and don't want outsiders to know how large they are, said Heidi Beirich, the head of the SPLC's intelligence project.

The latest rise in the number of hate groups began in the last four years of Barack Obama's presidency, according to the SPLC. In 2011, SPLC recorded 1,018 active organizations, the highest tally it found in more than 30 years of tracking hate groups. That number had fallen to 784 in 2014.

The vast majority of the groups detailed in the 2017 SPLC report -- more than 600 of them -- adhere to some form of white supremacist ideology. Within that category, neo-Nazis saw the most growth over the past year, from 99 to 121 groups.

For the first time, the SPLC has included what it deemed "male supremacy groups" in its report. Two groups are listed. One of them has advocated for legalizing rape on private property, the center says. The other has advocated that the month of October be called "Bash-A-Violent-Bitch Month."

"Male supremacy is a hateful ideology advocating for the subjugation of women. (It) misrepresents women as genetically inferior, manipulative and stupid," the SPLC report said.

The report also shows that the number of Ku Klux Klan chapters across the country shrank from 130 in 2016 to 72 in 2017. But that is not an indication that hate is subsiding, the SPLC said.

"The decline is a clear indication that the new generation of white supremacists is rejecting the Klan's hoods and robes for the hipper image of the more loosely organized alt-right movement," Beirich said.

Some critics of the SPLC say the group's activism biases how it categorizes certain groups.

Some groups listed in the annual report have accused the SPLC of singling them out, not because they are hateful, but because of their conservative views. The D. James Kennedy Ministries, an evangelical Christian media group, sued the SPLC in 2017 for defamation, saying it "illegally trafficked in false and misleading descriptions of the services" subjecting it to "disgrace" and "ridicule," among other things. It had been listed as a hate group for what the SPLC called its anti-LGBT stance.

The SPLC also identified 689 anti-government groups -- including 273 armed militias -- in 2017, compared to 623 the previous year.

Anti-government groups usually increase in number when the president is a Democrat, amid fears of stricter gun regulations, the SPLC said -- but this year is an exception. There was an increase of more than 60 groups, despite a Republican President and Republican-controlled Congress.

For the SPLC's explanation of why the organizations made the list, click here.

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