By Linda N.
Numerous hateful activities and crimes occur yearly in the United States, triggered by reasons linked to religion, language spoken, skin color, who you choose to love, and so on. These biases, exhibited in various forms, are not limited to hate speeches, white supremacy activities, racism, and vandalism, a common feature that runs through faulty ideologies. Across America, non-profit organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has tracked over nine hundred (900) hate groups operating in the US. These groups are entities, with members who have biases against people, groups, or communities of specific ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation, classified as hate groups. Some of these groups exist to cause mayhem in the society, demonizing people, and creating fear in communities; some instigate conflicts, cause riots, and contribute to general disturbances. Over the years, such crimes have necessitated the enactment of several laws at the federal and state levels for prosecuting suspects caught with specific activities, which will serve as future deterrents. Unfortunately, there is insufficient data at the national level to show the frequency of occurrence because states do not report at the federal level, and some reported crimes. However, it’s estimated over 200,000 hate crimes according to surveys and estimates recorded by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
What Is the Color of ‘Extremism’ in America?
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, of an equal or higher level of concern, more than 1,600 extremist groups are operating across the country. These groups run on ideologies too but differ from hate groups because some of them tilt towards violence. Undeniably, the concept of extremism has defied a universal definition because it is subject to various influencing factors. Scholars and researchers acknowledge that the political environment influences the classification, and the activities regarded as extremist. For instance, factors like the political system, political culture, goals, ideologies, personal ideologies, and experiences play a significant role. Scholars claim that the use of the concept as a political tool, as determined by the sitting political group in power, acts of intolerance, antagonistic behavior toward the ruling party’s ideologies, and rejection of agreed social order affects the definition. This lack of coherent explanation creates a legal challenge that makes extremism cases challenging to prosecute by the appropriate institutions, inadvertently posing a significant problem to national security.
Despite this, expert Peter Bergen notes that there might be variances in definitions, extremism, is influenced by the perpetrator’s perception of conflicting with another, an ‘us against them’ state of mind, with an attitude of always being on the offensive and looking for a ‘scape-goat.’ It differs slightly from acts of hate crimes because it promotes violence as a means of conveying their grudges. Extremists believe in using force to achieve political, ideological, or religious goals.
There are several examples around the world, but in the United States, incidents like the September 11, 2001 bombing of the twin tower remain a vivid example of the effects of extremism resulting in acts of terrorism, a grudge that dates back to the ’80s.
Radicalized ideologies birthed extremist movements and actions, which experts argue holds the solution to counter the problem. In the United States, political extremism remains one of the most prevalent forms of extremism, and history dates back to when the British colonized the country. Over the years, there have been countless radical protests and movements, scattered across American history.
Hate and Extremism in New York
There are various hate groups and extremist movements across the fifty (50) States, in New York State alone, there are over 40 hate groups with evidence of their activities in the rise of anti-semitic attacks, and other forms of attacks based on race and sexual orientation.
What Causes Hate and Extremism?
History reveals that American has a longstanding narrative, deep-rooted in three primary triggers — violence, hate, and fear. In recent years, the fear of ‘demographic change’ has become the most prevailing and insidious fear. It is driven by the belief that there is a conspiracy to wipe out the ‘white’ race from their home and replace them with non-white populations or foreigners. This conspiracy is driven by the misinterpretation of census figures, analysis of population growth and trends. Beyond that, some believers claim that some politicians and Jews support the fostering of the demographic change. Hence, the surging antisemitism attacks. These reactions have been simmering under the surface, from generation to generation, existing in pockets of people, and breaking forth into extremist movement when people with similar feelings and ideologies join forces. For instance, violent extremism is driven by right-wing, racially motivated ideologies, while radicalism driven by individual ideologies sold and used convincingly to swing sentiments and evoke solidarity emotions.
Combatting the Malaise
Over the years, awareness and sensitivities have increased over the issues of hate groups and extremist movement. Several individuals and groups are working tirelessly to overcome the various agendas held by those promoting white nationalism, racism, hate crimes, antisemitism, and continuous discrimination against immigrants. Increased awareness of the danger of allowing such agendas to color the national discuss and shape the future of America, they know how much of a threat it poses to national security by encouraging the practice of hate, fear, and resentment. More courageous, people willing to stand up for others, and new organizations are required to fight for human rights.
As well, the media stands as one of the most effective tools in achieving this mandate. Evidence abounds that the internet, specifically social media, is an essential tool used in fostering this sinister plan. People with radical ideologies meet virtually, share, and promote their views and conspiracy with far-reaching consequences. They brainwash, enroll, and instigate people to perpetuate destructive acts against others based on their perceptions.
Hence, this medium can also promote positive messages by producing counter messages and using public media to raise awareness and change people’s attitudes and behavior.
Beyond that, all governments: federal, state, and counties/cities must invest in the fight against these groups; institutions empowered to enforce their authority and hold these groups accountable for the harm they cause.
Finally, technology companies, especially those operating in information technology such as Facebook and Twitter, must continually enforce their policies to punish those who flout their policies by promoting violence, harm, and hate speech. All these and more strategies must be considered when designing a national response to combat organized hatred and extremism in America. Failure to recognize and address it as a real problem could result in a dis-United States of America.