The map came in an envelope with a one-line return address: Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy. Soon as I saw the return address the flashback was on screen and I was in a hotel ballroom in Seattle listening to Senator Robert Kennedy telling people to please buy his book, but to buy the paperback because it “was cheaper than the hard cover.”
Less than 48 hours later Robert Kennedy was gone, killed in a California hotel kitchen after he’d won that state’s presidential primary.
Inside the envelope with the famous name in the return address was a letter signed “Warmly, Ethel.” I know. The letter was signed by a machine, and it was a request for a donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Also inside the letter was a map with the title: “ACTIVE HATE GROUPS IN THE UNITED STATES.” The map showed 784 active hate groups, with 18 in my adopted State of North Carolina (2 Neo-Nazi, 7 Black Separatist, 3 Ku Klux Klan, 1 White Nationalist, 2 Neo-Confederate, 2 Anti-LGBT/Other, and 1 Racist Skinhead).
The other 756 active hate groups are sprinkled around the country, with the map showing large concentrations in central and southern California, Denver, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, New England, and the entire southeast, with Florida a front-runner showing 28 (Florida – spreading hate with walkers?).
The map also contains a bar graph showing the existence of 874 antigovernment groups, the number of which has ranged between 131 and 1,360 for the period 2001-2014, with the highest numbers since the election of President Obama. The caption for the bar graph: “Antigovernment extremist groups have experienced explosive growth since President Obama was first elected.”
The map also contains a website “…for specific details about hate groups in your state….” SPLCENTER.ORG/HATEMAP
Finally, a brief word about the SPLC, as contained in a note on the map: “The Southern Poverty Law Center is the nation’s leading source for reliable analysis of domestic terror organizations. Hate and extremist groups continue to operate at alarming levels in the U.S. – fomenting racist violence, seeking to poison our democracy, and, in some cases, plotting domestic terrorist attacks. As radical-right violence continues to plague the U.S., increasingly extremists are moving out of organized groups into the anonymity of the Internet.”
In a world where too many people drive like NASCAR wanabees, talk on their cell phones no matter where they are and who’s listening (and who doesn’t want to listen), abuse their loved ones, abuse children, never accept any responsibility for their actions (or inactions), blame everybody else for every problem they have, and simply don’t much care about common courtesy and manners, it doesn’t seem much of a great leap of logic to not be surprised at the numbers, depth and breadth and the various categories of hate groups.