Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Forgotten terror threats—American racists and neo-Nazis

America's "war on terror" has understandably fixed attention overseas on Muslim militant organizations such as al-Qaeda. But not to be underestimated are the hatred for and potential violence to Americans by homegrown terrorists.

This violent breed of all-white racists reserves their hatred for blacks, Jews and immigrants, usually Hispanics.

Hundreds of small cells of would-be terrorists exist throughout the United States. They travel under various names—Ku Klux Klan, National Socialist Movement, Vinlander Social Club, American National Socialist Workers Party, World Wide Church of the Creator, National Alliance, White Aryan Resistance, National Vanguard.

To the dismay of civil rights groups, on the margins are a few politicians and rural law enforcement officers who express their disdain and distrust of black Americans and Hispanics, plus radio talk show hosts who tend to give stature to racist propaganda.

Several plots to kill Barack Obama were broken up when federal agents arrested the conspirators. A white supremacist neo-Nazi, William White, was arrested after threatening a bank employee, a university professor, a black mayor and African American plaintiffs in a housing bias lawsuit. All the suspects remain in jail.

A number of arrests have also been made in hate crime attacks on Hispanics, including several murders.

The most effective tactic in defusing these groups has been mounted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, of Montgomery, Ala., whose longtime leader, Morris Dees, has been the target of assassination threats. The SPLC has filed 25 successful lawsuits that have crippled or brought down hate groups with civil damage verdicts on behalf of victims or their families. The suits wiped out finances and property assets of the organizations.

Unfortunately, tough economic times seem to be the natural ally of hate groups. Memberships swell with new recruits who blame their troubles on minority groups. For example, the SPLC reports that known anti-immigrant hate groups have increased from 602 in 2000 to 888 in 2008—a 48 percent increase. This prompted Jeff Schoep, leader of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, to crow, "This immigrant thing ... has been the greatest boon to us."

Fueling more hate group activities are the election of the first black U.S. president and a new U.S. Census report predicting America's whites will lose their majority status by 2040.

SPLC spokesman Mark Potok fears the worst—possibly "a dangerous, racially motivated backlash of hate" by American terrorists aimed at other Americans.

Sadly, America's new era of racial diversity could be threatened by a few Americans who live in the dark cultural past.

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