Sunday, February 23, 2020

Organized hate and extremism in Montana

Last month, Stillwater Rising brought Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) Outreach Director Lecia Brooks to Columbus to talk about organized hate groups in the United States and Montana. Stillwater Rising is a local group with a mission to empower individuals and support communities while fostering equality, diversity, human rights, civil liberties and a sustainable future through respectful dialogue, education and advocacy. We thought her remarks about facing up to the impact of organized hate groups were relevant to Stillwater County residents and have summarized them below.
From 2000 to 2016, there has been a 50 percent increase in the number of hate groups in the U.S. The SPLC defines a hate group as an organization that – based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities – has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics. These groups include white supremacists and black separatists, and those who are anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim.
Montana ranks second in the number of anti-Muslim groups per capita, behind only Tennessee. This is striking because Montana also has the lowest number of Muslims per capita. Act for America is the largest national anti-Muslim group. It promulgates conspiracy theories like the current false reports that sharia law is taking over in the US and all Muslims are extremists/terrorists. Flathead Act has pushed anti-sharia legislation in Montana. Other major white supremacy groups include: Right Stuff, Identity Europa and Vanguard America.
The Daily Stormer, a leading hate website is led by Andrew Anglin. Anglin is being sued by a Whitefish woman with the help of SPLC because he issued a call for a “troll storm” against her and her family, who are Jewish. (Anglin claims to be living in Nigeria and has not appeared in court.)
Extremist groups are trying to recruit more young people, especially men, across the country. Over 400 college campuses have seen flyers with the basic message that white people are threatened by blacks/Muslims/immigrants/etc. They claim that words such as “diversity” or “inclusion” really mean “white genocide.” Richard Spencer, head of the National Policy Institute, generates controversy with racist messages and attempts to schedule appearances at colleges across the country.
Brooks stated that people in Montana should be concerned about militia groups. These groups, such as the Oathkeepers and the Three Percenters, are anti-government and attack police. Many Oathkeepers are ex-military and police with specific skills and special ops training. Their goal is to take over government. They show up at rallies and programs as “security.”
One of the reasons for the increase in both hate groups and hate incidents is changing demographics that alarm some white people. In 1970, the US was 83 percent white; in 2016 that percent dropped to 66 percent. The percentage of blacks has remained stable (between 12-15 percent) while that of Asians and Hispanics has increased. The younger the age group, the higher the percentage of minorities, with the age group of 55 years and older remaining 75 percent white.
Brooks urged people to take action, individually or as a group, to stand up to racism and hatred wherever and whenever we see it. We should not be silent until “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24)