There has been a stark rise in the number of hate groups in America. The divisive political climate is to blame.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has defined a hate group as “a group that has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” Just a few months ago, at the end of 2018, an SPLC report came out and indicated the highest level of active hate groups in communities across America since 1971, when the organization was formed. The SPLC operates out of Montgomery, Alabama, as a nonprofit legal organization that advocates for public interest and civil rights litigation. The SPLC associates this apparent record rise in hatred with political polarization by the current two-party system, extremely high levels of public anti-immigrant sentiment and innovative channels of information subsequently assisting in the spreading of false reports or propaganda online. 

The number of hate groups in America has risen 30 percent since 2014. Similarly, from 2015 to 2017, there was a 30 percent increase in the number of hate crimes reported to the FBI. Additionally, after a widely covered riot and subsequent murder from a self-identified white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, at least 50 people were murder victims of right-wing violence in 2018 alone, according to the Anti-Defamation League. This number may seem insignificant due to the millions of Americans in today’s society, but this is the highest number of extremist-caused deaths since the infamous 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. That act was primarily orchestrated by two members of a radical right-wing survivalist group that left 168 innocent individuals murdered by the work of the alt-right extremists.

The SPLC has also attempted to link this rise in hate group prevalence to the hateful rhetoric of the Trump administration. When the ruler of the free world enjoys the right to lie without consequence to the American people, propaganda and political indoctrination of intolerance for specific groups of Americans is the result. 

Heidi Beirich, the director for the SPLC Intelligence report, said: “Rather than trying to tamp down hate, as presidents of both parties have done, President Trump elevates it with both his rhetoric and his policies. In doing so, he’s giving people across America the go ahead to act on their worst instincts. Trump has given voice to the rage and paranoia of white supremacists, and now there is a real danger that as extremists lose the hope they saw in his presidency, some will lash out against the people he has demonized and blamed for America's problems.” 

According to the SPLC, the number of hate groups in the nation was on a steady decline for the three years prior to the 2016 presidential election, but Trump’s administration gave a national speech platform to some of the most intolerant voices in our society. Although hate groups account for a small percentage of all Americans, they constitute and give a voice to the immoral, indoctrinated population who obsesses over the sentiment of these groups. The same report from the SPLC indicated a 50 percent increase in white nationalist hate groups in the United States from 2017 to 2018, going from 100 to 148 identified groups in a year. 

But the trend of hate groups does not just mean increased intolerance from white communities against minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ rights and religious ethnicities. This phenomena of hatred has also seeded itself inside minority communities like Black Nationalists, who have increased their national prevalence from 193 hate groups in 2016 to 264 hate groups identified in 2018. 

This is an alarming trend that does not have any possible sustainable conclusions. If we allow this trend to continue unchecked, we will have put ourselves in no better of a situation than our country was prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlawed racial segregation. It is going to take more than political leadership to inspire our citizens of this great nation to rise above hatred and intolerance and live up to its highest values of morality and humility. 

Richard Cohen, the president of the SPLC, had a strong statement assessing how we ought to begin to resurrect our civil and social community: “Hate has frayed the social fabric of our country. Knitting it back together will take the efforts of all segments of our society, our families, our schools, our houses of worship, our civic organizations and the business community.” 

The change of heart that Americans desperately need to experience is one that will not occur overnight. It is one that can be achieved gradually through the practice of tolerance, sympathy, wholeheartedness, respect and impartiality for one another as human beings. 

The biggest enemy to tolerance is an uneducated population. Educate yourself through verified channels of information, and you may begin to notice how the picture looks bigger now — and even more colorful. 

Nick Shook is a senior studying political science pre-law at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Let Nick know by emailing him at ns258814@ohio.edu

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