Increased attention has been focused on the country’s racial divide after last week’s shootings of nine worshippers at Charleston, South Carolina’s historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church. The accused attacker is a white, 21-year-old, high-school dropout who apparently despised black people.
A manifesto purported to be written by the suspect, Dylann Roof, was uncovered and published over the weekend. In it, “he identifies himself as a white nationalist and says he was ‘truly awakened’ to his beliefs after reading the online propaganda of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a notorious, racist hate group,” said Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a statement Saturday.
Such groups are identified on the organization’s Hate Map, which draws from deep field reporting on various racist, anti-Semitic and other hate groups throughout the country. Nineteen are in South Carolina.
There are 784 such groups, with California and Florida among the leaders. It isn’t only a Southern deal, either. New York and Pennsylvania have healthy shares too.
Virginia has 27, including two in Richmond. One is the Nation of Islam, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as anti-Semitic. Another is the Confederate Hammerskins, a skinhead group founded in Dallas in 1988 that uses rock music to push the ideas of white supremacy. The National Socialist Movement, a neo-Nazi outfit, has a branch in Chesterfield County.
The center also lists the Public Advocate of the United States as an anti-gay group based in Falls Church. It’s led by Eugene Delgaudio, a fiery, hard-right politician who’s served on the board of supervisors in Loudoun County for many years.
The propaganda from such groups can push dangerous narratives, Cohen said: “Roof fits the profile of the lone wolf terrorist radicalized in the echo chamber of racist websites that increasingly promote a global white nationalist agenda.”