Hate and extremism are on a historic rise in the United States, according to a civil rights group that tracks hate-driven organizations.
The Southern Poverty Law Center recently released its annual Year in Hate and Extremism report, finding an increase in hate groups for the fourth year in a row. The findings revealed a 30 percent increase in American bias-motivated groups in just four years and a 7 percent increase in 2018 alone — a record high during 20 years of tracking.
The group argues that this historic trend is related to President Donald Trump, the usage of social media to spread hate messages, and what they call “hysteria” from white Americans fearful of demographic changes that have led to a more racially diverse nation.
"The numbers tell a striking story — that this president is not simply a polarizing figure but a radicalizing one," Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, said in a statement. "Rather than trying to tamp down hate, as president of both parties have done, President Trump elevates it — with both his rhetoric and his policies. In doing so, he's given people across America the go-ahead to to act on their worst instincts."
The Southern Poverty Law Center 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 race, religion, ethnicity sexual orientation or gender identity."
They found 1,020 organization in just the last year that meet this definition of hate.
Groups most commonly tracked by the organization are mostly white supremacist groups that include neo-Nazis, followers of the Ku Klux Klan, and skinheads. However, the group also noted in the report that black nationalist groups are rising and “growing their ranks.”
While black nationalist groups echo many of the same anti-Semitic or anti-LGBTQ beliefs held by white supremacist groups, they do not currently sway mainstream politics in the ways these groups have been able to in recent years under President Trump, according to the report.
The organization report arrives at a moment where hate crimes and hate-motivated attacks are garnering huge national attention in the media due to the recent alleged hate crime reported by gay, African-American actor Jussie Smollett.
Last month, the star of Empire reported that he was attacked by two white men at 2 a.m. in Chicago while walking home from a Subway restaurant. The men allegedly yelled racist and homophobic epithets while attacking him and eventually put a noose around his neck.
Recent reports that claim Smollett was involved in coordinating the attack have begun to sway public support the actor first received. Some powerful members of government like Sens. Kamala Harris and Corey Booker, who have used his story to pass anti-lynching legislation in the Senate, are now silencing their unwavering support of his accounts as police continue to investigate.
No charges in his case have been made and the actor is still considered a victim of the alleged crime, which occured as the U.S. also sees an increase in reports of hate crimes, alongside more hate groups.
Read full report here.