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Hate Groups: Study Looks at Cause and Rise

Pulaski, Tenn., is considered the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. Pictured here, klansmen march in a New Jersey funeral for a Klan member. (Bundesarchiv, Bild)
Pulaski, Tenn., is considered the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. Pictured here, klansmen march in a New Jersey funeral for a Klan member. (Bundesarchiv, Bild)
February 12, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee is the home state of one of the most infamous hate groups, the Klu Klux Klan – but the Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that number now sits at 38.

This month, the University of Utah released a study of why and how hate groups develop and found that nationwide, less education, population change, ethnic diversity, poverty and conservative politics correlated with more hate groups.

But Richard Medina, assistant professor in the university's Department of Geography and the report's senior author, says the ways people hate are based on cultures, histories and other factors specific to different regions.

"If you look at the South, they have different racial issues, and areas along the border of the U.S. may focus on anti-immigrant issues," Medina explains. "So, you can start to see this whole map of hate that is really regionally specific."

Medina and his team focused on organized groups that target entire classes of people based on factors beyond their control – including ethnicity, gender, disability and sexual orientation.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 2016 saw a near-high in the number of hate groups in the U.S.

Medina says while many people are facing uncertainty and change, those involved in hate groups believe their actions will help secure the future for the people they see as members of their tribe. He notes that fear can turn to hate – and in the worst case, violence.

"You know, the neo-Nazi, the national anti-immigrant hate, I think in a lot ways boils down to this fear of losing identity from what those people consider to be 'other' people," he observes.

Emily Nicolosi, a doctoral candidate who contributed to the study, says places that have a history of large-scale immigration, such as the East and West coasts, are more accepting of people with different backgrounds.

Nicolosi adds that, even in non-coastal regions, counties that experienced an influx of new people over a five-year period tended to have less hate.

"That goes to show that when people perhaps have a chance to interact with people who are different [from] them, that might contribute to more tolerance," she says.

The study was published in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN