The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that fights dangerous extremist groups, counted 939 hate groups operating across the country in 2013. Although the number is on the decline—there are 79 fewer groups now than in 2011—the latest figures represent a 60-percent increase since the year 2000.
The law center documented hate groups and their locations on a “hate map,” which shows all organizations and chapters known to be active during 2013. The list was compiled using hate group publications, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources and news reports.
Here are 10 things you should know about hate groups:
The SPLC defines hate groups as those with “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” Common activities include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.
An estimated 191,000 hate crimes have occurred nationwide since 1995—the year Timothy McVeigh bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City.
Hate groups range in ideology from religious bigotry to anti-immigration, and from anti-LGBT to white supremacists and racist skinheads. Most hate groups are short-lived but some, like chapters of the Ku Klux Klan, are active for decades. The most violent are racist prison groups.
Who Is Targeted?
A “hierarchy of hate” exists among such groups, said Mark Potok, senior fellow at the SPLC. Although hate crimes are committed against Natives, groups are much more likely to target blacks, Jews, Hispanics, multi-racial couples and members of the LGBT community.
“It sounds terrible to say, but the extreme right groups view Native Americans as a very definite notch above African Americans,” Potok said. “In fact, historically, some blacks would pass as Native Americans because they got treated better.”
Although certainly not immune to hate crimes, Natives may experience fewer simply because the overall population is smaller and more concentrated. Some hate groups—even those whose ideologies include ethnic cleansing—may actually respect Natives, Potok said.
“A lot of hate groups see Natives as being a pure race,” he said. “But at the end of the day, Natives are not white, so to the extreme right, they are not as good.”
Other groups use Natives as a kind of “object lesson,” said Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research for the Anti-Defamation League, another nonprofit organization that tracks discrimination and promotes justice.
“We’ve seen some white supremacists view Natives negatively, but others have grudging admiration for them,” he said. “White supremacists believe the white race is being drowned by color and manipulation, so they use this as a way to say what happened to Native Americans can happen to Europeans if we don’t act now.”
Where Are They?
Hate groups are active in 49 states and the District of Columbia; there were no documented hate groups in Hawaii. Florida had the most hate groups at 58, followed by Texas at 57, Georgia at 50, New Jersey at 44 and New York at 42. Alaska and North Dakota each had one active hate group—both were white nationalist groups or racist skinheads.
How Close to Tribes?
Locations in close proximity to tribes tend to have more anti-Native hate groups or crimes. Based on the SPLC’s hate map, white supremacist groups exist in states whose populations are predominantly white. Those groups tend to crop up in border towns or near larger concentrations of Natives. These states include Arizona, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Montana and New Mexico.
“Where there’s a higher percentage of Native Americans, that’s where you may find more prejudice against them, simply because they’re there and they’re visible,” Pitcavage said.
Who Commits Hate Crimes?
The hate map tracks active groups, not the individuals who commit the vast majority of hate crimes.
“The majority of white supremacists don’t belong to hate groups,” Pitcavage said. “There are much larger numbers of hate crimes that come from outside these groups and far more people out there who are simply racist or prejudiced instead of having a whole ideology based on it.”
How to Spot and Report a Hate Crime
Hate groups or hate-motivated incidents can be reported to the SPLC or other agencies keep records of all incidents reported and use the information to fight hate and extremism. Incidents include all forms of hate, from handing out leaflets all the way to violent crimes.
What Can You Do to Help?
Just as the majority of hate-related incidents are perpetrated by individuals, every person can take a stand against hate. The SPLC offers an interactive online map where individuals can “stand strong against the hate, racism and intolerance infecting our communities.”