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Despite Obama win, spread of hate groups last year shows racism isn’t fading in the U.S.

Citizen Staff Writer

Billie Stanton

With the election of President Obama and the slowed trickle of illegal immigration, you’d think racism would be fading away.

You’d think wrong, though. Hate never sleeps. And it spread like a cancer in 2008, with 926 hate groups active in the United States, up from 888 in 2007, reports the Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Project.

Arizona has 19 hate groups, including 10 organizations of neo-Nazis, such as the National Socialist Movement in Cochise County, the SPLC found.

These groups hate Jews, gays, other minorities and sometimes Christians.

Three Arizona groups, such as the Western Hammerskins, qualify as racist skinheads, a particularly violent kind of white supremacists.

Not too surprisingly, the SPLC also has identified 19 “nativist extremist” groups in Arizona – those that target immigrants – in addition to the 19 hate groups.

Tucson has three such groups: the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, the Truth In Action/US Constitution Enforcement and Warden Burns Mexican Flags, the ragtag group that follows Roy Warden.

Still, Arizona doesn’t rank among the nation’s 20 worst states for hate. California, for example, has 84 hate groups.

New Mexico has only one, the National Socialist Movement.

Arizona also is home to that white-skinned group, whose National Socialist magazine cover in September depicted Obama in the cross hairs with the headline, “Kill This N—–?”

Even black supremacists in the Hebrew Israelite movement despise Obama, calling him a puppet of Israel. But the president is almost an afterthought for these anti-Semites, who preach that “evil Jews” are solely responsible for the recession.

The economy’s crash is a large part of the reason for the surge in hate groups, says Mark Potok of the Intelligence Project.

It has spurred deeper animosity toward illegal immigrants, whom many wrongly blame for the mortgage crisis and the recession.

Obama’s election and the election failures of anti-immigrant candidates also have wrought more rage, Potok says.

Yet the new SPLC report still seems counterintuitive.

After all, if American voters can elect an African-American president for the first time in history, how racist and hate-riddled can we be?

Very hateful, actually. The enmity and hostility identified by the SPLC don’t surprise those of us in the media, whose trash cans and Web comment sections overflow with racist hate comments every week.

Alas, ignorant and insecure Americans still turn to xenophobia, nativism and racism as some bizarre source of comfort for what ails them.

But they’re a dangerous and sometimes deadly lot. And that’s no comfort to the rest of us.

Reach Billie Stanton at 573-4664 and bstanton@tucsoncitizen.com.

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