While the subject of hate is complex, hate itself can be divided into two general categories: rational and irrational. Unjust acts inspire rational hate. Who but the most spiritual or the most philosophic of us could argue that hatred of someone who had maliciously harmed us or our loved ones is irrational? Hatred of a person based on race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or national origin constitutes irrational hate. When I talk about hate, I am talking about the irrational kind. Most definitions of hate focus on the ways in which hate-mongers see entire groups of people as the “Other.” For example, Tolerance.org argues that “All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”
According to the southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League ( SPLC and the ADL) a hate group is any organized body whose beliefs and actions are rooted in enmity towards an entire class of people based on ethnicity, perceived race, sexual orientation, religion or other inherent characteristic. I want to add to this anti-government and conspiracy theorists.
As I wrote in my introduction to Hate In America, I often try to comfort myself by looking at history when I think things have never been worse. I have found that hate in America is as traditional as apple pie—the same as in any country, but because we are a nation of immigrants we have very conflicted attitudes. In some ways it is might be considered fair to consider the United States of America as this country’s original hate group. And it started even before the War of Independence was won.
Racism against Native Americans
During the colonial and independent periods there were many conflicts with the indigenous Americans in order to take their resources. Through wars, massacres and forced displacement and the imposition of treaties, land was taken and numerous hardships imposed. After the creation of the United States, the idea of Indian removal gained momentum. The doctrine of “Manifest Destiny” included stereotyped perceptions of all Native Americans as “merciless Indian savages.” Racial rhetoric increased during the era of Manifest Destiny. In a policy formulated largely by President George Washington’s Secretary of War, Henry Knox, the U.S. government sought to encourage Native Americans to sell their vast tribal lands and become “civilized”, which meant (among other things) for Native Americans to abandon their cultures of hunting and become farmers, and for their society to reorganize and give up clans or tribes.
There are too many incidences and dates to cite, but I have tried to list the main examples of systematic racism.
1776—Thomas Jefferson inserted this sentence into the Declaration of Independence (referring to grievances against King George III): “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”
1803 –Louisiana Purchase; Lewis and Clark expedition. One goal: gather information about the Native American tribes to be used against them.
1830– Indian Removal Act passed by Congress; legalized removal of all Indians east of Mississippi to lands west of the river. “Trail of Tears” in which Native Americans suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation while en route to their destinations, and many died, including 4,000 of the 15,000 relocated Cherokee.
1837 –Smallpox epidemic on the Plains. Many historians claim that blankets infested with the disease given to Native Americans.
1862– Minnesota Uprising of Sioux; 38 hanged at Mankato.
1870– First Ghost Dance Movement, Prayer to prevent immigration.
1876 –Battle of Little Big Horn (Custer).
1877– Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce War.
1890 –Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge. Ghost Dance. Last major bloodshed involving Indians and the U.S. Government.
Racism Against African Americans
1641 – Slavery legalized in Massachusetts colony.
1790— 20 percent of the overall population in the thirteen colonies was of African descent. The legalized practice of enslaving blacks occurred in every colony. Slaves were used as a labor force in agricultural production, shipyards, docks, and as domestic servants. In both regions, only the wealthiest Americans owned slaves. Poor whites recognized that slavery devalued their own labor. The social rift along color lines soon became ingrained in every aspect of colonial American culture.
1857—The Supreme Court issues the Dred Scott decision, which decreed a slave was his master’s property and African Americans were not citizens.
1883 – A number of cases are addressed under this Supreme Court decision. Decided that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 (the last federal civil rights legislation until the Civil Rights Act of 1957) was unconstitutional. Allowed private sector segregation.
1896 –Plessy v. Ferguson. The Supreme Court decided that “separate but equal” facilities satisfy Fourteenth Amendment guarantees, thus giving legal sanction to Jim Crow segregation laws.
The 20th century was nadir of American race relations and saw a hardening of institutionalized racism and legal discrimination against African Americans. Poll taxes, acts of terror by groups such as the KKK were not unusual. The first half of this century saw racism in the United States worse than at any period before or since. All expressions of white supremacy increased, including anti-black violence, lynching and race riots.
1908 –Race Riot in Springfield Illinois leads to the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
1913 –Federal segregation. The Wilson administration began government-wide segregation of work places, rest rooms and lunch rooms.
1919–Whites riot against blacks in Washington, DC. The white mob – whose actions were triggered in large part by weeks of sensational newspaper accounts of alleged sex crimes by a “Negro fiend” – unleashed a wave of violence that swept over the city for four days. The Washington riot was one of more than 20 that took place that summer in different states.
Meanwhile, the Ku Klux Klan was being revived in Maryland and Virginia, as racial hatred burst forth with the resurgence of lynching of black men and women around the country – 28 public lynchings in the first six months of 1919 alone, including seven black WW II veterans killed while still wearing their Army uniforms.
1921–The deadliest racial confrontation begin in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The exact number of people killed in the riot, which destroyed a 30-square-block area was never determined. Some historians, citing survivors’ accounts, have put the figure as high as 300.
Racism against Asian-Americans
The first wave of Chinese came here at the beginning of the 19th century to work as laborers on the transcontinental railroad. While industrial employers were eager to get this new and cheap labor, the ordinary white public was stirred to anger by the presence of this “yellow peril.” Political parties and unions rallied against the immigration of yet another “inferior race”. Newspapers condemned the policies of employers, and even church leaders denounced the entrance of these aliens into what was regarded as a land for whites only.
1882 — Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited immigration from China for the next ten years. This law was then extended in 1892. The Chinese Exclusion Act was the only US law ever to prevent immigration on the basis of race. These laws not only prevented new immigration but also brought additional suffering as they prevented the reunion of the families of thousands of Chinese men already living in the U.S. that had left China without their wives and children.
The Chinese were often subject to harder labor on the transcontinental railroad and often performed the more dangerous tasks such as using dynamite to make pathways through the mountains. The San Francisco Vigilance Movement promoted mob violence against Chinese immigrants. My husband, who is Chinese and has family that has lived in San Francisco for generations, tells that the Chinese were blamed for the earthquake in 1906.
During World War II, the United States created internment camps for Japanese citizens in fear that they would be used as spies for the Japanese.
Racism against Latin Americans
1830s –The United States first came into conflict with Mexico as the westward spread of Anglo settlements and of slavery brought significant numbers of new settlers into the region known as Tejas (modern-day Texas), then part of Mexico.
1848–After the Mexican-American War, the treaty promised that the landowners in this newly won area would enjoy protection of their property as if they were citizens of the United States. Many former citizens of Mexico lost their land in lawsuits or as a result of legislation passed after the treaty.
1851— California Land Act enacted, which had the effect of dispossessing Californio owners ruined by the cost of maintaining litigation over land titles for years.
1943–The Zoot Suit Riots were incidents of racial violence against Latinos in Los Angeles. Repeated confrontations over many months between small groups and individuals culminated into several days of non-stop rioting. Large mobs of servicemen would enter civilian quarters looking to attack Mexican American kids, some of whom were wearing zoot suits, a distinctive exaggerated fashion popular among that group. The disturbances continued and were even assisted by the local police for several days before military commanders declared downtown Los Angeles and Mexican American neighborhoods off-limits to servicemen
1960’s –Mexican-American workers formed unions of their own and joined integrated unions. The most significant union struggle involving Mexican-Americans was the United Farm Workers’ long strike and boycott aimed at grape growers in the San Joaquin and Coachella Valleys.
1800s and early 1900s— hundreds of thousands of Eastern European Jews were escaping the pogroms, and largely arrived at Ellis Island in New York, as my family did. It is thought that as soon as they left the boat, they were subject to racism from the port authorities. (The derogatory term ‘kike’ was adopted when referring to Jews because they often could not write English letters so they may have signed their immigration papers with circles – or kikel in Yiddish.)
1910— Southern Jewish communities were attacked by the KKK, which often used ‘The Jewish Banker’ in their propaganda.
1915— Texas-born, New York Jew Leo Frank was lynched by the newly re-formed Klan, after being falsely convicted of rape and sentenced to life imprisonment.
1924—National Origins Quota Act passed. Growing anti-immigration feelings in the United States at this time resulted in the quota, which severely restricted immigration from Eastern Europe. It remained in effect until 1965.
In the years before and during World War II the United States Congress, the Roosevelt Administration, and public opinion expressed concern about the fate of Jews in Europe but consistently refused to permit large-scale immigration of Jewish refugees. The United States accepted only 21,000 refugees from Europe accepting far fewer Jews per capita than many of the neutral European countries and fewer in absolute terms than Switzerland.
U.S. opposition to immigration in general in the late 1930s was motivated by the grave economic pressures, the high unemployment rate, and social frustration and disillusionment. The U.S. refusal to support specifically Jewish immigration, however, stemmed from something else, namely anti-Semitism, which had increased in the late 1930s and continued to rise in the 1940s. It was an important ingredient in America’s negative response to Jewish refugees. About 100,000 German Jews did arrive in the 1930s, escaping Hitler’s persecution.
1939–The SS St. Louis sailed from Germany in May carrying 936 Jewish refugees. On 4 June it was also refused permission to unload on orders of President Roosevelt as the ship waited between Florida and Cuba.
Jewish lobbying for intervention in Europe drew opposition from the isolationists/nativists, amongst who was Father Charles Coughlin, a well known radio priest, who was a renowned anti-Semite, believing that Jews were leading America into the war. He preached in weekly, overtly anti-Semitic sermons and, from 1936, began publication of a newspaper, Social Justice, in which he printed anti-Semitic accusations such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, as did Henry Ford in his Dearborn, Michigan newspaper.
Anti-European immigrant racism
Several European immigrant groups have been subject to discrimination either on the basis of their immigrant status (“nativism”) or on the basis of their ethnicities.
In the 19th century, this was particularly anti-Irish racism, which was partly anti-Catholic, partly anti-Irish as an ethnicity or race (notably accused of drunkenness), an example being the Philadelphia Nativist Riots.
The 20th century saw racism against Italian Americans and Polish Americans partly from anti-Catholic sentiment, and partly from Nordicism, which considered Southern Europeans and Eastern Europeans inferior. Nordicism lead to the reduction in Southern European and Eastern European immigrants in the Immigration Act of 1924
Racism against Middle Easterners and Muslims
Racism against Middle Eastern Americans arose in the 1970’s following the Iranian Revolution and the taking of Americans during the Hostage Crisis. Following the 9/11 attacks, discrimination and violence has markedly increased against Arab Americans and many other religious and cultural groups.
Iraqis were demonized which led to hatred towards Arabs and Iranians living in the United States. There have been attacks against Arabs not only on the basis of their religion but also on the basis of their ethnicity and even their clothing. In addition, non-Arabs who are mistaken for Arabs because of perceived “similarities in appearance” have been collateral victims of anti-Arabism.
Iranians as well as South Asians of different ethnic/religious backgrounds (Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs) have been stereotyped as “Arabs”. Ann Coulter called Iranians “ragheads” and Brent Scowcroft called the Iranian people “rug merchants.”
In covering a history of homophobic discrimination, it gives a clearer picture to list the laws that reduced discrimination, rather than to only list laws that were anti-gay. The reason for this is that until the 20th century in America, gays were mainly in the closet. They had the ability to hide their sexuality for the most part. And they had to—the entire society saw them as deviants. Because of that ability (and necessity) to hide themselves, there was very little institutional homophobia; it was only after the gay community formed and gays dared to congregate that they became hate targets on a larger scale. When reading about these laws that were written for gays, it is good to remember that before they were enacted, they had no legal protections. One more point about the anti-gay groups: Almost all of them are Christian religious organizations, but I hesitate to label them all as hate groups, although some clearly are.
1958— the Supreme Court established a precedent that a homosexual publication was not intrinsically “obscene” and thus protected by the First Amendment.
1967, the Supreme Court upheld the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 which among other things banned homosexuals, as constitutional. This ban remained in effect until 1991.
1969—Stonewall riots in New York. On June 27, the police raided a gay bar, which was a common practice at the time. This type of raid, which was often conducted during city elections, had a new development as some of the patrons in the bar began actively resisting the police arrests. For the first time a large group of LGBT Americans who had previously had little or no involvement with the organized gay rights movement rioted for three days against police harassment and brutality. These new activists were not polite or respectable but rather angry activists that confronted the police, taking their cues from other civil rights movements of the 60’s. This was the beginning of the Gay Liberation movement.
1977– the Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a high school teacher fired for being gay. While this is not an official judgment on the merit of the case, it did uphold a lower court’s ruling that becoming a “known homosexual” automatically impaired his efficiency as a teacher which used various methods to support this claim: 1. Defined homosexuality based on the New Catholic Encyclopedia which deemed the act as implicitly immoral; 2. An “immoral” person could not be trusted to instruct students as his presence would be inherently disruptive.
1985— the Supreme Court let stand an appellate ruling ordering the university to provide official recognition of a student organization for homosexual students. The case set a national precedent by removing legal restrictions against gay rights groups on college campuses.
1986– the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that homosexual sex was not protected under the right to privacy.
1996–the Supreme Court ruled against an amendment to the Colorado state constitution that would have prevented any city, town or county in the state from taking any legislative, executive, or judicial action to protect homosexual citizens from discrimination.
1998– President Clinton’s Executive Order prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation for federal employees.
2000– the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America had a First Amendment right to exclude people from its organization on the basis of sexual orientation.
2003– the United States Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that laws against sodomy cannot be directed at homosexuals alone, and furthermore, that intimate consensual sexual conduct is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Owing to the United States’ federal system and the variety of attitudes toward LGBT rights, the status of LGBT civil rights in the U.S. is at present a patchwork. At the federal level, there is no recognition of same-sex unions and no laws forbidding employment discrimination against LGBT persons. Some states have enacted such laws, however. States in the Deep South still support homosexuality being completely illegal, and overwhelmingly oppose marriage-like rights or same-sex marriage.
State courts also produced a patchwork of court opinions regarding the rights of LGBT citizens to marry, which has prompted calls for a Federal Marriage Amendment, along with state amendments to ensure that courts would not change the civil definition of marriage. As of 2007, the legal options available to same-sex couples depends on what state they reside in.
Hate crime laws (also known as bias crimes laws) protect against crimes motivated by feelings of enmity or animus against a protected class. On April 29, 2009, the House of Representatives passed H.R.1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which would expand the definition of hate crimes in federal law to include gender, sexual orientation, gender-identity, and disability. The legislation would also remove the prerequisite that victims of hate crimes be engaging in a federally protected activity (Matthew Sheppard Act).
Currently, in the United States there is no federal law against housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
From Wikipedia: “As the movement for same-sex marriage has developed, many national and/or international organizations have opposed that movement. Those organizations include the American Family Association, the Christian Coalition, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the Moral Majority, NARTH, the national Republican Party, the Roman Catholic Church, the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Southern Baptist Convention, Alliance for Marriage, Alliance Defense Fund, Liberty Counsel, and the National Organization for Marriage.” It’s worth a read to see how these groups have embedded themselves into the political discourse. One I’d like to add is the Westboro Baptist Church, infamous for their preaching that “God Hates Fags.”
Other Hate Groups
Militias, white supremacists, tax-protestors, Identity Christians, and Patriots often intertwine ideologically and it is hard to unravel these groups.
The Militia movement is a paramilitary movement with roots from the Survivalist movement, tax-protester movement and other movements in the United States. It inherited paramilitary traditions of earlier groups, especially the conspiratorial, far-right antigovernment “Posse Comitatus” which took its moniker from the government Act of the same name. The formation of today’s militias was influenced by the historical precedent of existing paramilitary movements such as the Posse Comatitus. The County Rule (posse comitatus literally means the power of the county) movement and the militias share an ideological kinship, revolving around the idea that the county is the supreme level of government and the sheriff the highest elected official. Posse comitatus refers to the authority of county sheriffs to conscript able-bodied males to keep the peace or arrest felons. The power still exists in states that have not repealed it by statute.
1878–Posse Comitatus Act prohibits the use of U.S. troops for civil duties like domestic law enforcement short a declaration of martial law. The Act provides two exceptions: those expressly authorized by the Constitution; and those Congress expressly authorizes. For instance, Congress expressly authorized the Coast Guard to carry out drug law enforcement duties during peacetime.
1970s– Richard Butler, a neo-Nazi from California carrying out a self-described war against the “Zionist Occupational Government,” or ZOG, relocated to the Idaho panhandle to establish his Aryan Nations compound. He saw the Pacific Northwest, with its relatively low minority population, as the region where God’s kingdom could be established. Butler also believed that a racially pure nation needs an army. .
1990s. The militia movement grew following controversial standoffs with the federal government. The militia movement claims that militia groups are sanctioned by law but uncontrolled by government; in fact, they are designed to oppose a tyrannical government. Adherents believe that behind the “tyranny” is a left-wing, globalist conspiracy known as the New World Order.
1991 –Publication of Pat Robertson’s book, “The New World Order.” Members of the Christian right who subscribe to the conspiratorial world view presented in Robertson’s book are part of the far-right milieu home to a variety of movements, including Identity Christians, Constitutionalists, tax protesters, and white supremacists.
The militias have close ties to the older and more broadly based Patriot movement, from which they emerged, and which supplies their worldview. According to Chip Berlet, an analyst at Political Research Associates in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who has been tracking the far right for over two decades, this movement consists of loosely-linked organizations and individuals who perceive a global conspiracy in which key political and economic events are manipulated by a small group of elite insiders. On one flank of the Patriot movement are white supremacists and anti-Semites, who believe that the world is controlled by a cabal of Jewish bankers.
At the other end of this relatively narrow spectrum is the John Birch Society, which has repeatedly repudiated anti-Semitism, but has its own paranoia. For the Birchers, it is not the Rothschilds but such institutions as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and the U.N. which secretly call the shots. Berlet estimates that as many as five million Americans consider themselves Patriots.
1991—End of the cold war. While the Patriot movement has long existed on the margins of U.S. society, it has grown markedly in recent years. Three factors have sparked that growth. One is the end of the Cold War. With the collapse of the Soviet empire, their search for enemies turned toward the federal government, long an object of simmering resentment. The other factors are economic and social. While the Patriot movement provides a pool of potential recruits for the militias, it in turn draws its members from a large and growing number of U.S. citizens who oppose the federal government. This predominantly white, male, and middle- and working-class sector has been buffeted by global economic restructuring, with its attendant job losses, declining real wages and social dislocations. While under economic stress, this sector has also seen its traditional privileges and status challenged by 1960s-style social movements, such as feminism, minority rights, and environmentalism.
1992– Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Two events inflamed Patriot passions and precipitated the formation of new militias. The first was the FBI’s confrontation with white supremacist Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, in which federal agents killed Weaver’s son and wife.
1993—Waco, Texas. The second was the federal government’s destruction of David Koresh and his followers at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. Key promoters of the militia movement repeatedly invoke Ruby Ridge and Waco as spurs to the formation of militias to defend the citizenry against a hostile federal government.
1993 —Passage of the Brady Bill (imposing a waiting period and background checks for the purchase of a handgun).
1994 —Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (banning the sale of certain types of assault rifles). To the Patriot movement, these laws are the federal government’s first step in disarming the citizenry, to be followed by the much dreaded United Nations invasion and the imposition of the New World Order. But while raising apocalyptic fears among Patriots, gun control legislation also angered more mainstream gun owners. Some have become newly receptive to conspiracy theorists and militia recruiters, who justify taking such a radical step with the Second Amendment: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Right-wing organizers have long used the amendment to justify the creation of armed formations. The Ku Klux Klan began as a militia movement, and the militia idea has continued to circulate in white supremacist circles.
It has also spread within the Christian right.
Christian Patriot Movement
The Christian Patriot movement is a movement of political commentators and activists. Their interpretations of history and law aver that the federal government has turned against the ideas of liberty and individual rights behind the American revolution and America’s Christian heritage.
In the early 1990s, the Coalition on Revival, an influential national Christian right networking organization, circulated a 24-plank action plan. It advocated the formation of “a countywide `well-regulated militia’ according to the U.S. Constitution under the control of the county sheriff and Board of Supervisors.” (Sheriff Joe Arpaio ?)
(It is at this point that I find myself on unsteady ground. Do Christian dominionists belong in this category? Do right-wing churches? It’s a quivery line, but I want to present only those groups delineated as hate groups by the SPLA and The ADL, even though I personally feel that Christian radicalism, like radical Islam, contains threads that can be categorized as hate. But in general, I will leave religious hate for another discussion.)
Obviously, I have left out scores of examples of institutional racism and discrimination in the United States, and I hope you will see this as a limitation of space, and not as insensitivity. I also left out many specific groups that I will address when discussing the rise of hate on the internet.
We like to think that we have made progress, that we are different from the unenlightened people of an earlier age, and most of us are. But hardly all of us. We can make allowances for Thomas Jefferson the slave owner and anti- American Indian Founding Father—after all, he was from a different time. Most people have changed and evolved. We can see by looking at the history of hate in America how far we have come. And we can see by the rise of hate in the media and on the internet how far we still need to go. The roots of bigotry and hatred run deep in our national experience, but while I think we need to stay vigilant, I came away from this exercise more encouraged than despondent.
(Next—Part 2: Hate Speech and the First Amendment)