A recent report by the Anti-Defamation League noted a drastic increase in the number of banners espousing white supremacy across the United States. There has been an overall increase of white nationalism in the United States. Current US President Trump has been criticized for not denouncing these movements.
The United States of America has a long history of racism. The country was founded after the slaughter of numerous indigenous groups; and across successive years, slavery was used to construct the country as it exists today. The ideologies espoused by white supremacists date back to the 17th century, when scientific racism emerged. The civil rights movement (1954-1968) helped end segregation and bring about equality in America.
However, institutional racism is still prevalent across the country. The far-right movement has attracted white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers. The American Nazi Party has functioned since 1959. The Klu Klux Klan (KKK), which advocates white supremacy, has existed since 1865. The concept of “Alt-Right” is also increasingly linked to white supremacy. A number of known Neo-Nazis such as Richard Spencer identify with the movement.
White supremacy and white nationalism have been on the rise in western nations in recent years. In August 2017, Charlottesville, Virginia became the site of a white supremacy rally called “Unite the Right”, created to protest the removal of the statue of the confederate General Robert E. Lee. On the second day, fights broke between those participating in the rally and those protesting. 20-year old James Alex Fields Jr., reportedly rammed into protestors with his car, resulting in the death of Heather Heyer. Fields was charged with second degree murder.
US President Trump has been criticised for not taking action against hate groups. Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacists has been criticized even by members of his own party. His espousal of racist and xenophobic rhetoric, particularly on the campaign trial, drew criticism. He also did not immediately disavow David Duke, the former head of the KKK. Trump received unofficial endorsement from the official newspaper of the KKK. When Trump won the election, Duke said that it was a great victory for “our people.”
According to the ADL’s (Anti-Defamation League) Centre on Extremism, “banners of hate” are the latest tactic used by white supremacist groups to espouse their ideology. Founded in 1913, the Anti-Defamation League is a non-profit civil rights and human relations organisation. The organisation works “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all”.
The agency saw an upturn in the trend of hateful banners (attributed to alt-right and neo-Nazi groups) displayed across the country in an “unprecedented trend”. The agency noted 72 instances of these banners located in high-visibility locations from May 2017 to March 2018. 40% of these banners could be attributed to the alt right group Identity Evropa, led by Patrick Casey.
“More than 30 percent of the banners contained obvious white supremacist language,” the report stated. “Some used blatantly racist language, alluding to America as a ‘white nation.’ Others used slogans or mantras (new and old) promoting the idea that the white race is under attack.”
Some of these messages include: “Anti-racist is Code for Anti-White”, “It’s Okay to be White”, “For Race and Nation”, “You Will Not Replace Us” and “White Lives Matter.” A number of other banners expressed anti-immigration, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiments.
As a product of the rise in white supremacy, the US has also seen a surge in religiously and racially motivated crimes against Muslims and South Asians. In February 2017, Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot dead in a hate crime at a bar in Kansas City. Before shooting the Indian-born engineer, the perpetrator Adam Purinton shouted, “Get out of my country”. Purinton pleaded guilty to murder this March.
According to a report released by the non-profit organisation SAALT (South Asian Americans Leading Together), there were 302 incidents of hate aimed at South Asian and Middle Eastern communities from November 2016 to November 2017. In 2017, the Council on American-Islamic Relations stated that hate crimes against Muslims had increased by 91% since 2016.
Our assessment is that there has been a drastic increase in racist and xenophobic rhetoric across the United States. We believe that Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism in particular are on the rise. In recent years, conservative groups have become particularly vocal about the perceived threats of immigration. As Indian immigrants are a highly successful minority in the United States, they may be increasingly caught up in this rhetoric.