Category Archives: Racist and Racial Justice Movements

Right-Wing Extremism, Racist Movements, and Fights for Racial Justice

While many Americans might feel as if the 1960s KKK-style of white supremacy is a thing of the past, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that more than 1000 extremist hate groups still exist today, including neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalist, racist skinhead, and border vigilante groups. But how is racist activism sustained during a time when expressions of overt racism have become much less common? Are these simply marginalized factions of disgruntled bigots, or something more?  And, what does the future hold for racist and other far-right movements?  Race also mobilizes activism on the other end of the political spectrum, as racial minorities and white allies attempt to build on the legacy of the civil rights movement. But in light of the relatively weak and short-lived protests following the acquittal of George Zimmerman for his role in killing Trayvon Martin, many analysts have raised questions about the vitality of the movement for racial justice in the U.S. Why have contemporary national movements around racial justice been so difficult to sustain? Where does the majority of racial justice activism occur today, and in what forms? And, are there any changes on the horizon?  We have lined up a fantastic group of scholars and activists to reflect on these issues and will feature their essays throughout October and November. As always, we are grateful for the participation of our distinguished contributors:

damali ayo, Author and Speaker (essay)
Heidi Beirich and Evelyn Schlatter, Southern Poverty Law Center (essay)
Kathleen Blee, University of Pittsburgh (essay)
John Brueggemann, Skidmore College (essay)
Betty A Dobratz, Iowa State University and Lisa K. Waldner, University
of St. Thomas (essay)
Kim Ebert, North Carolina State University (essay)
Abby L. Ferber, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (essay)
Robert Futrell, University of Nevada, Las Vegas (essay)
Peter B. Owens, University of California, Irvine (essay)
Todd J. Schroer, University of Southern Indiana (essay)

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The State of Hate

By Heidi Beirich and Evelyn Schlatter

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has developed an international reputation for its tracking of extremism since the 1980s and its innovative lawsuits. Initially founded as a civil rights law firm, the SPLC has been at the forefront of groundbreaking lawsuits that have advanced social justice, furthered reform, and helped end or damage major extremist organizations including several powerful Klan groups.

Each year, the Southern Poverty Law Center produces a list of groups that fall into a variety of “hate” categories. Continue reading

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Looking in Dark Corners

By Robert Futrell

The 2009 U.S. Department of Homeland Security report, “Rightwing Extremism” surprised many. The report noted a surge in right-wing recruitment and organizing activities in a context of dire economic conditions, immigration fears, Middle East conflicts, returning war veterans, and the potent symbolism of our nation’s first African-American President. Many commentators responded to the report with shock and disbelief. Terror is an external threat, they said, epitomized by violent Jihadis. How dare we turn the terror spotlight inward when we should be united against real extremist threats from afar.

The reality is that right-wing extremists are active in our midst. Continue reading

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Racist and Right-Wing Extremist Movements in the U.S.: Two Things Scholars Know, One Thing Scholars Don’t Know, and the Implications for Antiracist Activism

By Kathleen Blee

What We Know #1:    The relationship between U.S right-wing/racist movements and the population in which they emerge is significantly different today than it was in earlier times.  In the past, far right and racist movements often took root at times and in places in which a significant proportion of the population shared their racist and political values.  The largest racist movement in U.S. history, for example, was the 1920s Ku Klux Klan whose 3-5 million members espoused ideas of white Christian supremacy and nativism that were not significantly different than those held by the white native-born Protestant majority in the early twentieth century.  Similarly, German Nazism, commonly regarded as the prototypical Western racist movement, was nested within a population in which many embraced fundamental aspects of Nazi ideology such as anti-Semitism and nationalism. Continue reading

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The Racialist Movement: Past and Present Strategies, Opportunities, and Constraints

By Todd J. Schroer

The constraints that are faced by the current racialist movement are in many ways the same that they have always historically faced:  governmental and countermovement opposition, negative publicity, movement infighting, etc.  Looming great over these is the bifurcation within the movement concerning the strategies and tactics that they feel should be used to achieve movement goals.  Namely, should they be focusing upon legal or extralegal actions?  Should they go underground, engaging in violence, or try to gain power through the political process? The path chosen can greatly affect recruitment, mobilization efforts, and the likelihood of success. Continue reading

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Action, Inaction, and “Color-blindness”

By Kim Ebert

The killing of Trayvon Martin and subsequent trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman offers valuable insight into the operations of color-blind racial ideology and the way color-blindness sustains white privilege even in the absence of any formal, organized movements openly dedicated to maintaining whites’ status as the dominant group. Indeed, while the events surrounding the Martin shooting sparked outrage and mobilized protests among the African-American community, it is telling that they did not inspire any sort of meaningful collective action among those (primarily non-blacks) who were sympathetic to Zimmerman’s cause. This is not to say the events were greeted entirely with indifference among Zimmerman’s supporters, but they mostly did not see the shooting and trial as occasions around which to organize and rally. Instead, many viewed the entire episode as a legal process centering on fundamental individual rights—in this case, the right to defend oneself and the right to bear arms—rather than issues of race. Continue reading

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Change is Not for the Faint of Heart

By damali ayo

“Change is not for the faint of heart.” Someone told me this once, and it stuck with me. I was sitting in a room full of women trying to recover from dieting, binging, starving and a plethora of other food addiction behaviors. I had raised my hand earlier in that hour and said, “I am a compulsive dieter.”

It was just one of the many groups of similar people, or one on one with a therapist, on the phone with a friend on a similar journey, or being coached by a mentor who has walked one of the paths I have found myself on in my lifetime. These are humbling journeys that evolve me from being unwell, to understanding what is wrong and why, to learning how to heal, to the reward of a daily maintenance of real lasting change. Continue reading

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