The number of SPLC-recognized hate groups in America have grown over the past seven years

Adriana Navarro
Dec 14, 2018 · 12 min read

Although more well-known hate groups like the KKK have become less popular, the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded a growth of other hate groups during 2017.

The SPLC lists 953 recognized hate groups in America in 2017.

Out of that total number, 75 are located in California, making it the state with the most hate groups. Texas and Florida are tied for second place with 66 hate groups each.

The SPLC was founded in 1971 as a nonprofit legal advocacy organization by civil rights lawyers Morris Dees and Joseph Levin Jr. To this day, they take on cases focused on children’s rights, economic justice, immigrant justice, LGBT rights and mass incarceration. On Charity Navigator, they are ranked three out of four stars with high scoring in accountability and transparency.

Although the organization is considered to have a left-center bias and there have been recent law cases against the SPLC, they are still regarded to have high factual reporting.

The SPLC takes into account the official organization statements, principles, statements of leaders and groups activities to determine if certain organizations are hate groups. Hate groups are defined as a group that “has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.

The site compares their definition of hate groups to the FBI’s criteria in the definition of a hate crime – “a criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in party by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.”

The SPLC notes that individual chapters of a larger organization, the KKK for example, are each counted separately “because the number indicates reach and organizing activity.”

There are times when hate overlaps in a group as well. Those are listed by the SPLC as “general hate” groups. People can have overlapping hate as well, such as Thomas Robb, who is a Christian-Identity church pastor, a leader of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a white nationalist and identifies as anti-LGBTQ.

Trends of SPLC-recognized hate groups

Eight of the 10 states with the most SPLC-recognized hate groups in 2017 were also eight of the states with the highest population at the time.

Source: Statista

Virginia and Tennessee were the only states that had a high number of groups, but were not one of the 10 states with the highest populations.

Throughout the years, groups that the SPLC has classified as black nationalist and anti-muslim groups have grown steadily. Other groups, such as the KKK and the neo-Confederates, have reached highs and lows in membership numbers while Christian identity groups have slowly declined.

The largest increase in numbers between 2010 to 2017 was in the black nationalist groups from 149 during 2010 to 233 during 2017. Anti-Muslim groups had the second largest increase by a difference of one group. During 2010, there were only 5 SPLC-recognized anti-Muslim groups which has since grown to 114 groups by 2017.

The largest jump within the past seven years in one group’s numbers was the KKK from 2014 to 2015 when their groups had more than doubled from 72 to 190 KKK groups according to the SPLC.

The number of SPLC-labeled white nationalist groups have decreased in the time between 2010 to 2017 from 136 groups to 100. Although that group’s numbers and numbers of other groups who carry white-nationalist messages have gone down, together they still amount for the most common hate group in America according to the SPLC.

White Nationalists

The differences between white nationalists and white supremacists are slim.

The New York Times uses researcher of ethnic majority behavior and Birkbeck University professor Eric Kaufmann’s explanation of the two: White nationalism “is the belief that national identity should be built around white ethnicity, and that white people should therefore maintain both a demographic majority and dominance of the nation’s culture and public life.” On the other hand, white supremacy is the belief that white people and their “culture” are superior to others.

The most recent count of SPLC-recognized white nationalist group locations is 100. But in the category description, SPLC says that “groups listed in a variety of other categories– Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, racist skinhead, and Christian Identity– could also be fairly described as white nationalist.”

With all five of the categories included, the count rockets to 415 white nationalist groups.

Virginia has the most labeled white supremacist groups at 10. When including the other categories, California holds the most at 27.

When considering all of the groups considered to be white nationalist, 47 states in total have those groups, along with the District of Columbia.

Of the locations labeled specifically as white supremacists, at least 30 states have the groups.

The Ku Klux Klan

A well-known hate group in the United States, the Ku Klux Klan was founded after the Civil War as what the SPLC labeled a “vigilante group to intimidate Southern blacks… and prevented them from enjoying basic civil rights.”

The Khan Academy lists the KKK as a “white supremacist terrorist group.” It originally focused on targeting African Americans, and its revival in the 1920s after World War I had extended its hate toward Catholics, immigrants, Jews, liberals and progressives as well.

The group’s membership declined due to the efforts of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to educate the public of the threats that the KKK posed. Despite its efforts, however, the hate groups resurfaced again during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Spike Lee’s recently-released movie, “BlacKkKlansman,” focuses on police infiltrating the Klan during the early 1970s, coming out almost a year after Klan members joined other white supremacists and people advocating for the preservation of Confederate soldier statues at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA.

During the summer of 2018, Klansman and founder of the Confederate White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Richard Preston was sentenced to eight years in prison with four years suspended after pleading no contest to firing a gun at the rally. He was charged with discharging a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school.

Locations of the KKK range across at least 27 states according to the SPLC.

According to the SPLC, Mississippi has the most KKK group locations with seven active communities in one state.

Racist Skinhead

Racist Skinheads are a more violent part of the white supremacist movement according to the SPLC.

There are 25 states that have Racist Skinhead group locations. Out of the 71 group locations, 11 are located in California.

Neo-Confederates

According to the SPLC, Neo-Confederates are a group of people who view the policies of the American Confederacy in a positive light.

In a 2011 Pew Research Poll, 48 percent of Americans responded that they believed that the Civil War was not a war over slavery, but state rights.

While the the issue of state rights was a component in the Civil War, PBS’ “History Detectives Special Investigations” feature notes that the federal laws the Southern states wanted to nullify were “laws interfering with the South’s rights to keep slaves and take them wherever they wished.”

In an NPR interview, historian Adam Goodheart said, “the only significant state right that people were arguing about in the 1860s was the right to own what was known as slave property– property and slaves unimpeded– and to be able to travel with that property anywhere that you wanted to. So it’s clear that this was really about slavery in almost every significant way.”

According to historical documents, the Confederacy was formed specifically around slavery.

In Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens’ Cornerstone Address, Stephens said the Confederate government is “founded upon exactly the opposite ideas,” that slavery was wrong “in principle, socially, morally and politically.”

He added that the “cornerstone” of the Confederacy’s government rests “upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.”

The SPLC notes that neo-Confederates also exhibit “an understanding of race that favors segregation and suggests white supremacy” along with the description that they advocate for traditional gender roles, are anti-LGBT and are “hostile toward democracy.”

According to data from the SPLC, there is at least one neo-Confederate group in nearly every state that had fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, with the exception of Louisiana. The border state of Kentucky also has at least one neo-Confederate group.

States that had no allegiance in the war have no neo-Confederate groups as noted by SPLC. None of the Union-aligned states have neo-Confederate groups either.

Florida and Tennessee have the most neo-Confederate groups, the two tied with 6 each.

Neo-Confederate groups are located in 11 states.

Neo-Nazis

Neo-Nazi groups, according to the SPLC, are groups with ideologies ranging from hating Jews and other groups such racial minorities, members of the LGBT community and sometimes Christians, to creating a fascist political states.

Illinois has the most Neo-Nazi group locations at 8.

Neo-Nazi groups are located in at least 44 states, making them the most widespread singular hate group in America according to the data.

Christian Identity

The SPLC notes the group is Christian in name only, and instead follows an anti-Semitic and racist theology.

Arkansas has the most Christian Identity groups at 3 in the state. Although many states do not have more than one group, Christian Identity groups are present in at least 17 states.

Black Nationalist

Black Nationalist groups, previously called Black Separatist groups by the SPLC, have formed as a reaction to institutionalized white supremacy in America according to the SPLC.

The core belief is that the answer to racism is to form separate institutions or nations for black people. According to the SPLC, “most forms of black nationalism are strongly anti-white and anti-Semetic.” Some of the groups such as Israel United in Christ believe that black and hispanic people are the Biblical 12 tribes of Israel.

Groups like the New Black Panther Party believe that black Americans should have their own nation. The SPLC notes that some original members of the Black Panther Party have rejected the new group.

In an interview with CNN, Bobby Seale, a founding chairman of the original Black Panthers said, “we never were what you would call xenophobic black nationalists. We were not separatist black nationalists. That was not the name of the game.”

The SPLC stresses that those groups should not be confused with the non-racist African-American organizations as the latter groups advocate for social justice and fight against institutional racism in ways that do not discriminate against others.

The SPLC also notes that black nationalists “should not be seen as equivalent to white supremacist groups– such as the Ku Klux Klan or Neo-Nazis– in terms of their history of violence and terrorism.”

They also “have virtually no supporters among elected officials.”

However, the popularity of Black Nationalist groups has risen significantly since 2000 when there were 20 SPLC-accounted groups. In 2017, the organization totalled to more than 200 locations, which was a significant increase from the 113 locations in 2014.

It is the second most common public hate group according to SPLC with 233 group locations. That’s a little more than half of the total amount of white nationalist group locations.

Florida has the most black nationalist groups at 21 followed by Texas at 20.

Black nationalist groups are located in at least 37 states and the District of Columbia.

Anti-Muslim

Anti-Muslim hate groups “exhibit extreme hostility toward Muslims” according to the SPLC and portray Muslims by negative traits.

Between 2015 and 2016, the number of anti-Muslim hate group locations in the U.S. jumped from 34 locations to a total of 101.

Texas has the most anti-Muslim groups at 13.

Anti-Muslim groups are located in at least 34 states and the District of Columbia.

Source: Al Jazeera

From 2015 to 2016 the number of SPLC-recognized anti-Muslim groups in the United States more than tripled from 34 to 101. From 2010 to 2017, anti-muslim groups grew from 5 to 113, gaining 109 groups within the span of 7 years.

In the same time span, the number of black nationalist groups increased by 110, becoming the highest growing hate group between 2010 and 2017 according to the available data. Anti-muslim groups trail in a close second.

Anti-LGBT

The anti-LGBT groups that the SPLC lists often support the criminalization of homosexuality and transgender identities, associate homosexuality with pedophilia and claim that LGBT people are dangerous to children.

The SPLC clarifies that groups that view homosexuality as unbiblical or oppose same-sex marriage do not qualify on those factors alone to make the list.

California has the highest number at 6 out of the 51 anti-LGBT groups across America.

Anti-LGBT hate groups are located in at least 20 states and the District of Columbia.

The organization also mentions that “hardline anti-LGBT groups promoted ‘religious freedom’ and ‘religious liberty’ legislation and legal challenges to justify anti-gay discrimination.”

Religious freedom causing discrimination against people in the LGBT community is not an uncommon theme. States such as the Dakotas, Virginia, Texas and other states already have bills that uphold “religious freedoms,” though have the potential to discriminate against LGBT people.

Source: Human Rights Watch

In Alabama, the Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act allows for adoption agencies with religious affiliations to deny same-sex couples from adopting from them according to an article from NPR.

Tennessee passed a law in 2016 that allows for counselors or therapists to deny services to clients based on “sincerely held principles.” Through this law, counselors or therapists are legally able to reject LGBT clients.

Mississippi’s Religious Liberty Accommodations Act, passed in 2016, allows for businesses to deny services to LGBT people on the grounds of religious beliefs. Although the law was challenged in the Fifth Circuit, it was not overturned and the Supreme Court would not take the case.

Hate Music

The SPLC lists hate music groups as “typically white power music labels that record, publish and distribute racist music in a variety of genres.”

Hate music groups are in at least 11 states.

Radical Traditional Catholicism

The SPLC defines “radical traditionalist” Catholics as a group of anti-Semites in America who “subscribe to an ideology that is rejected by the Vatican and some 70 million mainstream American Catholics.”

Radical Traditional Catholicism differs from Christian Identity views Jewish people as “the perpetual enemy of Christ and rejects the efforts of the Vatican to promote unity among different branches of Christianity.”

Although the groups are mostly congregated on the northeast coast and in the northeast central region, they also shows up in Minnesota, Texas and California.

Radical Traditional Catholicism groups are located in 9 states.

Anti-Immigrant

The SPLC defines anti-immigration groups as organizations that does not solely criticize high levels of immigration and harass immigrants, but groups that does both of the former actions while also pushing racist propaganda.

The District of Columbia has the highest number of anti-immigrant groups with at least 4 out of the estimated 22 nation-wide.

Anti-Immigrant groups are located in 12 states and the District of Columbia.

Holocaust Denial

Holocaust denial groups and individuals claim that the Holocaust never happened, or they downsize it according to the SPLC. They also call themselves “historical revisionists.”

There are at least 8 states with Holocaust denial groups.

Although the majority of the Holocaust denial groups listed by the SPLC seem to be brick and mortar locations, the internet is “the the chief conduit of Holocaust denial” according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum because of the ease of access, anonymity and other factors.

Neo-Volkisch

According to the SPLC, Neo-Volkisch groups are organized around ethnocentric and archaic notions of gender and are “born out of an atavistic defiance of modernity and rationalism.”

There are at least 21 states with Neo-Volkisch groups.

Male Supremacy

The SPLC defines male supremacy as the hateful ideology that advocates for the subjugation of women.

There are two SPLC-recognized male supremacy groups in the U.S., one in Texas and the other in D.C.

General Hate

General hate refers to groups that the SPLC recognizes at hate groups but don’t fit neatly into one category. SPLC-recognized general hate groups are in at least 27 states.

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Adriana Navarro

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