California Today: The State’s Hate Landscape

Published on February 22nd, 2017

Mike McPhate
February 22, 2017
New York Times

California appeared to witness a rise in hate last year.

In 2016, the state was home to 79 organizations with animus toward blacks, whites, immigrants, Muslims and other groups, according to a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based group that tracks extremism. That’s up from 68 the year before.

The report found that California had more hate groups than any other state — followed by Florida, with 63, and Texas, 55 — a result presumably of its sheer size.

But the data also revealed a notable cluster of activity in the corridor between the Los Angeles area and San Diego, where at least 40 of the groups operate.

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the center, suggested the presence of a heavy Latino population in Southern California played a part in fueling anti-immigrant sentiment.

To earn a place in the hate index, an organization must publicly espouse the idea that a class of people is inferior by virtue of its characteristics.

The liberal-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center, founded in 1971, has faced criticism in the past for applying the designation to mainstream conservative groups, such as the Family Research Council. In 2015, it apologized after labeling Ben Carson an “extremist.”

The latest report included many California groups, such as the Golden State Skinheads, Identity Evropa and Islam Threat, whose platforms are explicitly discriminatory.

But the classification of other groups drew pushback.

Californians for Population Stabilization, a Santa Barbara group with thousands of members, was labeled anti-immigrant by the center. Mr. Potok attributed the determination in part to troubling remarks about race and eugenics made by people formerly linked to the group.

Benjamin Zuckerman, the group’s president, vehemently objected to the characterization. The organization’s objectives, he said, are twofold: environmental conservation and fairness to working Americans who are harmed by “over immigration.”

“I consider us pretty much just ordinary people,” said Dr. Zuckerman, who is also an astronomy professor at U.C.L.A. “We just have a view that too many people for a given environmental carrying capacity is just not good.”


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