Even in 2016, hate groups exist in a larger capacity than they should. Using data from the latest year available (2015), there are currently 892 of them nationwide, according to the authority on hate groups, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). We’re talking Ku Klux Klan chapters, Neo-Nazis, black separatists, white nationalists — the whole nine.
From 2014 to 2015, there was a 14 percent jump in the number of active hate groups in the United States and it’s easy to see why. The country is facing perceived existential crises both foreign and domestic and since the rise of the Tea Party in the mid-aughts, bigoted and fearful rhetoric has been politically normalized.
Increased awareness of white police officers killing unarmed black men and women has given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement, which some fearful and ignorant individuals have likened to a terrorist organization.
The rise of ISIS and terrorist attacks in Europe have fed the American xenophobic beast, leading to an increase in violence toward Muslims and calls for complete border shutdown.
The Republican nominee for President of the United States has run his entire campaign on casual racism, rallying against Muslims and immigrants, incomprehensible levels of ignorance and fear-mongering, as well as remarkable arrogance and self-service. This “orange twatwaffle,” as one of my best friends so eloquently put it, has a real shot at winning in November.
The rise in hate groups has been a particularly troubling phenomenon alongside the normalization of bigotry.
“The SPLC has documented an explosive rise in the number of hate groups since the turn of the century, driven in part by anger over Latino immigration and demographic projections showing that whites will no longer hold majority status in the country by around 2040… this rise accelerated in 2009, the year President Obama took office, before leveling off and beginning to decline in 2011.”
But in 2015, it surged upward once more.
So many people in the United States are scared and acting irrationally. The last year or so has shown that there are more bigots than we once thought, thanks primarily to the aforementioned political normalcy of bigoted viewpoints and the irrational fear coursing through the nation’s veins. While these sentiments exist around the country, they are more concentrated in some places than they are others.
So, which state is home to more hate groups than any other? The answer may not be all that shocking.
The Lone Star State does hate groups bigger than any other state. Everything is bigger in Texas, right?
Texas boasts nearly one-tenth of all active hate groups in the United States, with most of them being Ku Klux Klan chapters. The 52 Klan chapters in Texas make up about 27 percent of nationwide Klan chapters, with the most notable being the North Texas-based Texas Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Klan has representation statewide, in almost every metro, but the highest concentration of Klan groups is in eastern Texas, where the state converges with Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
But it’s not just cross-burning and “white brotherhood” in Texas. While the Klan groups are the most common hate groups in the state, trailing at a distant second are black separatist groups. Black separatism, for the uninitiated, is basically the same ideological model used by white separatism, only with a flipped script. Black separatists are anti-white, largely anti-Semitic, oppose interracial marriages and relationships, and oppose racial integration to such an extent, many of them desire a separate nation strictly for black people.
There are 10 major black separatist groups in Texas, including Nation of Islam chapters in Austin, Fort Worth, Dallas, and Houston; Israel United in Christ chapters in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, and Corpus Christi; and a chapter of the New Black Panther Party in Houston.
White nationalism exists in Texas as well, most notably among the American Freedom Party in Granbury, Kerrville-based Carolyn Yeager and her supporters, the White Trash Rebel group in Keller, the Faith and Heritage group in Southeast Texas, and the Council of Conservative Citizens in Irving. Texas is home to Neo-Nazi groups like the American Nazi Party and The Creativity Movement, who both have members statewide, as well as the National Socialist Movement in Dallas and the Gallows Tree Wotansvolk Alliance in Mauriceville. The Vinlanders, a skinhead group, also have a presence in Texas, as do Neo-Confederate groups like the Southern National Congress and the La Porte-based League of the South.
These groups come face-to-face with each other at times, prompting state and local law enforcement to do their damnedest to keep them apart.
But it’s not all racism. Texas is also the land of the megachurch, so faith-based groups are found throughout the state. With anti-LGBT views disproportionately common among the religious, Texas also boasts several anti-LGBT hate groups.
One of the most notable would be the Stedfast Baptist Church near Fort Worth. They’re no Westboro, but they’re not pillars of prosocial principles either.
“Stedfast Baptist Church is a soul-winning church. What we mean by this is that we go out every week knocking on doors and preaching the Gospel from door to door. We believe that one of the main purposes of the local church is to evangelize our local community.”
That in and of itself is not a bad thing. If one isn’t interested, all they have to do is say “we don’t want any” and close the door. It’s the culture of Stedfast, however, that is troubling enough to put it on the SPLC’s radar. Stedfast Baptist’s culture is viciously anti-LGBT and its bigoted nature is personified in its pastor, Donnie Romero, whose sermon following the Pulse nightclub shooting referred to the victims as “sodomites,” “perverts,” and “the scum of the Earth.” Pastor Romero has stood by his remarks in the face of criticism, as well as endorsing similar comments made by Roger Jimenez at Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento, Calif.
It was the backlash to Pastor Jimenez’s remarks that prompted Romero’s in the first place.
Other notable anti-LGBT hate groups in Texas include Plano-based Probe Ministries, El Paso-based Tom Brown Ministries, and Conservative Republicans of Texas in Houston. But it’s not just anti-LGBT sentiment running amok in these, and other, houses of God…
Of all notable forms of bigotry permeating through the United States, perhaps none is more persistent than anti-Muslim views. Anti-Muslim sentiment, on a national scale, has increased 42 percent from 2014 to 2015 and the surge is noticeable in North Texas. The city of Irving is home to one of the largest mosques in the United States and has been the epicenter of anti-Muslim sentiment in Texas over the last few years.
Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne has found herself in the national spotlight over the last couple of years because of the contentious relationship between Muslim and non-Muslim residents in her city. Last year, city residents panicked when rumors began to pop up regarding the installation of a “Sharia court” by Irving Muslims. This was never the case, but that didn’t stop Mayor Van Duyne from fanning the flames of Islamic fear tearing through her city. She ran with it, doing interviews with national conservative media outlets and accusing local Muslims of trying to create separate laws for themselves, undermining the city’s authority and posing a safety risk for Irving residents.
The hysteria over “Sharia Law” in Irving was without merit, considering that an Islamic tribunal has existed in the Dallas area for years and said tribunal does not usurp city, state, or federal laws. It acts as forum for mediation, handling business disputes and other non-criminal matters for area Muslims as a means to avoid civil court. It works well within established laws. Similarly, other forums like the one in Dallas exist nationwide and cater mediation services to Muslims in those areas, similarly to how such tribunals also exist nationwide for Christians, Jews, and other devout worshipers.
The “Islamic crisis” in Irving went national and because of it’s lack of foundation was ultimately awarded the “2015 Texas Hoax of the Year” by the Houston Chronicle, beating out other notable examples of unrivaled Texan idiocy such as the Jade Helm scare and the Ahmed Mohammed clock incident, which also happened in Irving.
— Avi Selk (@aviselk) December 24, 2015
Then there’s the Bureau of American-Islamic Relations (B.A.I.R.), also based in Irving. Lacking proper grammar, they describe themselves as being “in opposition to (on all levels) of C.A.I.R. (and other Islamic organizations)” and have protested in front of the Islamic Center of Irving several times. They are usually armed when they do. But such protests are as common as the ones on Texas overpasses where ignorant people flap their gums and wave their AR-15s because “NoBama is taking the guns” and “the Kenyan dictator-in-chief is imposing martial law” and other examples of hyper-vigilant Texan nonsense. What B.A.I.R. is best known for is a confrontation they had with earlier this year in Dallas, when they attempted to protest the Muhammed Mosque but were met by armed members of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club and the New Black Panther Party.
Writing as someone who was born and raised in Texas, I’m not surprised by the fact that Texas houses more hate groups than any other state. I’m also not surprised by the diversity of hatred present in Texas. The state’s culture isn’t known to be that flexible, as Texas is a place where values are more based in tradition than they are applied logic. If your daddy and your grand-daddy believed it, then it must be so.
What is interesting, however, is that Texas has a higher concentration of active Klan groups than the whole of the Deep South. That’s staggering when considering that Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina are the states where Confederate images are most likely to be seen in public and where the Klan was at its most powerful during its heyday.
While Texas is a bastion of arrogant, intellectually-deficient politics and a bloated sense of self, it’s also the place where you’re most likely to accidentally get into a fight with Vinlanders or stumble into a bar where the Klan is holding a meeting. After all, cities like Arlington and Garland were recently found to be among the national leaders in abusive language toward blacks, Latinos, transgender people, and women.
Texas is to tolerance as Bernie Sanders is to the Democratic presidential nominee.
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.