Why hate groups are growing in popularity in the United States

Morris Dees
Morris Dees

Thursday  night, April 17, 2013, I had the privilege of sitting in the same room with legendary attorney Morris Dees as he described some of the cases he has been involved with over the course of his almost fifty years as a lawyer.

Dees is the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama.

He has been on the front line of hatred, a seemingly inexhaustible fountain that shows no signs of running dry.

I have known of the work of Morris Dees for many years mainly because one of the cases in which he was involved struck close to home.

Deliberate Indifference

That was the Loyal Garner, Jr., case which came out of Hemphill, Texas, a small berg a couple of hours south of my hometown. Garner, a black man, was arrested in Hemphill, placed in jail for a minor offense and beaten to death by white police officers. The details of the case are recounted in the marvelous book by Howard Swindle, Deliberate Indifference.  I highly recommend the book for anyone who wants to get a feel for the level of hatred of whites against blacks that permeated that section of the country in the late 1980s, and continues to fester like a cancer the doctors say may be in remission.

After Dees finished his prepared remarks, he called for questions from the small crowd.

The moderator pitched the question along these lines, “Mr. Dees, in light of recent events, what do you see in store for the United States?”

Dees replied that the Southern Poverty Law Center has monitored hate groups in the United States for many years. “There are now more than 2,500 hate groups in the United States, a number that has doubled since President Obama took office,” he said. He predicted that number will continue to grow for the next twenty-five years as American demographics shift.

In other words, hate is alive, well and thriving in the United States. It is an equal opportunity emotion, just as at home with racism, sexism and religious intolerance as it is with  homophobia.

As Dees put it, “Intolerance in the United States has  moved into the main steam.  The fringe groups that have spread the message for years have accomplished their goal.”

The only answer to hatred, according to Dees, is a local one.  People must speak out where they live, stand up for their neighbors, embrace their fellow man.

In so doing they may see just a glimpse of a world where justice rolls down as a mighty stream.

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