To my friends up north, including a lot of relatives in Wisconsin where my wife was born, and in Indiana and Ohio and out West too, in Arizona: If you want to know where Nixon’s cynical “Southern Strategy”—baptizing racists into the Republican Party in the 1970s—is leading you—today, in 2011—read Intelligence Report, an award-winning periodical published by the famous nemesis of the Klu Klux Klan, Morris Dees and The Southern Poverty Law Center.
When Barack Obama became a presidential candidate, an explosive resurgence of Klan successors cast a sudden burden of revolutionary proportions on the Secret Service, the FBI, and on state and local police departments. According to SPLC’s latest ”Hate Map,” more than one thousand fast growing groups of armed racist militias—221 named “Klu Klux Klan;” 170, “Neo-Nazi;” 136, “White Nationalist;” another 136, “Racist Skinhead;” and 42 “Neo-Confederate.” An additional 824 violently anti-government hate groups call themselves “Patriots” or “Sovereign Citizen” organizations; and, yes, with the same blind irony, 26 of them are called “Christian Identity.”
These armed insurgencies now threaten, not only in the south, as northerners might think, but in all but two of the States of the Union. For example, there are 8 hate groups in Wisconsin, 24 in Indiana, 32 in Ohio and 22 in Arizona. Their sordid criminal activities make “Watergate” look like a girl scout sleep over. Check out SPLC’s names and addressees in your own state and neighborhood.
In the course of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, racial epithets became commonplace at political rallies. The GOP, the Party of Lincoln, and its Presidential candidate denied responsibility, and I have every reason to believe them.
My fellow southerner, Carlos Dews, distinguished author and Chairman of the Department of English Literature at John Cabot University in Rome, explained in the December 2009 issue of Aspenia, an Italian journal, reprinted in the Philadelphia Inquirer, how racists in the United States have learned one lesson since the 1960s: They cannot express their racism directly. In public, they must veil their racial hatred behind policy differences. “But I know what they mean when they say they ‘want their country back.’ They want it back safely in the exclusive hands of people exactly like themselves.”
But we live in a country of excitingly different kinds of people from every corner of the earth; of every shape, size, sex, age, appearance, language, and color; of an endless variety of religious, social, political persuasions and affiliations; all kinds of tastes, talents, interests, and skills; some smart and thoughtful; others stupid and unthinking; some healthy and whole, others sick, lame and disabled; strong and weak; rich and poor.
Absolutists here and in other parts of the world think such a diverse country as ours is ungovernable absent a strong, coercive state that disdains both the truth and the rights of its people.
I’ll take this up next in my continuing series on
“The Poisonous Fruit of the Republican Party's 'Southern Strategy' as it Moves North,”
or, “I’m not prejudiced, but. . . .”
photo credit: flickr Bob Jagendorf