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Final victory over race hatred elusive

By Askia Muhammad
Senior Correspondent | Last updated: Jul 3, 2009 - 9:28:21 AM

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White hate groups are on the rise in ‘post racial' America

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‘This toxic combination of the financial crisis, a significant political change, and concern about shifting demographics has created what could be a combustible combination.’
President, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights—Wade Henderson,

WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) - Since Nov. 4, 2008—the day Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, the day many proclaimed the first day of the new, “post racial” America—the “hounds of racism” have been on the prowl in this country, fanning the flames of hatred, violence, and even murder.

On average now, a new hate crime is committed every hour of every day, according to a 48-page report—Confronting the New Faces of Hate: Hate Crimes in America 2009”—issued June 16 by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. The report was issued less than a week after a White supremacist, neo-Nazi allegedly shot and killed a Black security officer at a Jewish peace memorial—the third such shooting in less than two months.

“This toxic combination of the financial crisis, a significant political change, and concern about shifting demographics has created what could be a combustible combination,” Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, told reporters during a conference call.

“There has been a documented rise in these threats of violence” which have been “stoked by extreme political rhetoric, sensationalism and irresponsibility that we've seen on talk-show radio and other forms of communication, like the Internet,” Mr. Henderson continued. “The spate of racially-motivated hate crimes and violence against minorities and immigrants that occurred before and after Election Day makes clear that a final victory over prejudice and racial hostility remains elusive,” says the report.

In the latest and most spectacular incident, an 88-year-old, self-avowed White supremacist purportedly gunned down officer Stephen Johns at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. “The shooter had been promoting his White supremacist views online for years. Last week, words turned to hate,” Mr. Henderson said.

The racism is aimed all the way up to the president. The Secret Service reports that Mr. Obama has received the most threats of any recent U.S. leader, according to the Leadership Conference. The report calls on Congress to pass hate crimes legislation.

From acts of violence to crude racist jokes at the president and First Lady Michelle Obama's expense, the public hatred goes unrepudiated. A prominent South Carolina Republican activist, apologized for making a racist joke about Michelle Obama, and took down the Facebook page where he made it.

The Republican official had originally commented on a story about a gorilla escaping from a local zoo: “I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors—probably harmless,” he said.

In Tennessee, a Republican state senator refused to fire a staffer who sent out a racist image of President Obama. The staffer, sent out an email with images of all the presidents of the United States. President Obama was depicted in the bottom right-hand corner only as a pair of bright white eyes on a black background.

Also in South Carolina, Indigo Journal, a liberal blog in the state, reports that a GOP operative posted a racist joke about President Obama on a Twitter account. The official posted, then deleted: “JUST HEARD OBAMA IS GOING TO IMPOSE A 40% TAX ON ASPIRIN BECAUSE IT'S WHITE AND IT WORKS.”

GOP party officials tried to distance themselves from provocative acts, without disavowing them. Indigo Journal says that the S.C. party official works for Rep. Gresham Barrett's campaign for governor. A campaign official told Talking Points Memo.com: “I have to believe that is something that he would like to take back. It doesn't sound like something that was funny or intelligent or useful,” the spokesman said.

The official “wink and a nod” from conservative Republicans gives license to the bolder, criminal expressions of hate by White supremacists. They are “mainstreaming racism,” Mr. Henderson said.

The offenses run the gamut, from crude jokes to open, paramilitary preparations for race war. The alleged Holocaust Memorial Museum shooter ran a website “HolyWesternEmpire.org,” which was listed last year as a hate site by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He once worked at Noontide Press, run by Willis Carto, one of the nation's most prominent White nationalists and anti-Semites.

The shooting at the Holocaust Museum marks at least the third recent shooting involving a gunman with ties to the White nationalist movement. On May 31, anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder allegedly shot dead Dr. George Tiller at his church in Wichita, Kansas. Mr. Roeder was a former member of the Freemen, a White nationalist militia organization. On April 4, a White supremacist in Pittsburgh shot dead three police officers.

Investigators found a note in the car 88-year-old James von Brunn drove to the Holocaust Museum. In what investigators refer to as “handwritten notations” found in a notebook in the car, Mr. von Brunn wrote:

“You want my weapons—this is how you'll get them. The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews. Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do. Jews captured America's money. Jews control the mass media,” said Mr. von Brunn's note.

“Now I believe the response to 9-11 didn't do anything about the domestic terrorists who exist in our country,” Ronald Hampton, president of the National Black Police Association told The Final Call. “But it all has to do with the color, I believe, of the person who the terrorist is. We can see Black folks as terrorists.

“But it has something to do with that problem we have in America, when it comes to race. We don't want to talk about it. It negatively affects all of us, Black people. But nobody wants to talk about it.

“(Attorney General) Eric Holder was right. Americans are cowards when it comes to talking about the issues of race. White people are. Black folks talk about it every day, because they're affected by it,” Mr. Hampton continued.

For his part, the recent incidents of “bias-motivated violence,” prompted Attorney General Holder to say June 17 that new hate-crimes laws are needed to stop what he called “violence masquerading as political activism.”

Immigrants, Hispanics, Muslims, Jews, and Sikhs are all increased targets of bias attacks, according to FBI data cited by the Leadership Conference.

“Over the last several weeks, we have witnessed brazen acts of violence committed in places that many would have considered unthinkable,” Mr. Holder told the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

Mr. Holder cited attacks over a two-week period that killed a young soldier in Little Rock, an abortion provider in Wichita, Kan., and a guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Congress, Mr. Holder said, should update hate-crimes laws so law enforcement authorities can more effectively prosecute those who commit violent attacks.

Republicans have opposed Democratic efforts to expand the hate-crimes laws, saying current laws are adequate.

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