A year ago this week a young man fond of the Confederate flag killed nine African Americans in a church in Charleston, S.C.
A week ago a young man who allegedly pledged loyalty to the Islamic State group killed 49 people — many of them Latino — in a gay nightclub in Orlando.
In between came the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California by a radicalized Muslim couple and the launching of a presidential campaign by a Republican candidate whose appeal is said to be greatest among less-educated, angry white males.
It’s been a year of hate.
Here in the land of aloha, we might find some solace in a recent study that found Hawaii is one of only two states with no organized hate groups.
Which isn’t to say Hawaii Nei is hate-free. More on that in a minute.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which dedicates itself “to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society,” the 50th state and the 49th state, Alaska, are currently free of hate groups.
The center’s hate map counts 892 separate organizations across the continent, with Texas (84 groups), California (68) and Florida (58) leading the pack.
Aryan Strikeforce Of Ohio
The map was compiled using “hate group publications and websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources and news reports,” the center explained. “Hate group activities can include criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.”
The haters include the Golden State Racist Skinheads of Southern California, the Aryan Strikeforce of Ohio, the Sadistic Souls Motorcycle Club of Mount Vernon, Washington, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas,and the Israelite School of Universal and Practical Knowledge of Syracuse, New York.
The group categorizations include anti-immigrant, anti-government militiamen, anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, black separatist, some abortion opponents, Christian identity, Holocaust denial, Ku Klux Klan and neo-Confederate.
Many are active in their hate.
“They laid plans to attack courthouses, banks, festivals, funerals, schools, mosques, churches, synagogues, clinics, water treatment plants and power grids,” the SPLC stated. “They used firearms, bombs, C-4 plastic explosives, knives and grenades; one of them, a murderous Klansman, was convicted of trying to build a death ray.”
The number, membership and activity of hate groups are on the rise, partly due to Trump’s “demonizing statements” about Latinos and Muslims, said SPLC. But the trend has also been on the rise since the election of Barack Obama.
“The reality is that most people have no idea or very little idea that these groups still exist.” — Mark Potok, Southern Poverty Law Center
Just because Hawaii is not listed on the SPLC’s hate map does not mean it is without hate.
“It just means there are no organizations or ones that we haven’t uncovered that are dedicated to these ideologies,” Mark Potok, senior fellow at SPLC, told me last week.
Still, Potok said he could not remember hate groups listed for Hawaii in recent years. Alaska, however, has previously made the list.
The SPLC tracks hate groups for several reasons.
“It’s in large part of public education,” Potok said. “The reality is that most people have no idea or very little idea that these groups still exists. The Klan today is not the Klan of the 1960s or 1920s. But the fact is there is a whole lot of these groups on the radical right and they can be incredibly destructive.”
Another reason for the hate map is to serve and train law enforcement agencies. Which brings us to the matter of hate crimes.
The AG’s Office Is Counting
The Daily Beast reported last year that Hawaii has no official hate crimes, but that is misleading. As the article acknowledged, Hawaii just happens to be the only state that does not submit hate-crime data to the FBI.
Our Attorney General’s Office, with the help of county prosecuting attorneys and police departments, does track hate crimes, which are defined by state statute similarly to the federal definition:
any criminal act in which the perpetrator intentionally selected a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that was the object of a crime, because of hostility toward the actual or perceived race, religion, disability, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation of any person
Gender identity or expression was added in Hawaii in 2003 but was not included at the federal level until 2013.
From 2002 to 2015, Hawaii recorded 24 hate crime cases.
The AG identified two recent ones, both in 2014-2015 and both in Kauai.
The first involved a 20-year-old white man who stopped his car in the middle of a road, blocking traffic. An adult couple in a van were traveling behind the car with their granddaughter and her friend.
The AG’s report said, “The offender then exited his vehicle and approached the victims’ van, while shouting expletives and anti-Caucasian epithets and challenging the victims to a fight, while pulling on the van’s door handles and jumping on the hood.”
The offender was arrested and later pleaded “no contest” to a charge of harassment while a charge of criminal property damage was dismissed.
Bias Subcategories For Hawaii’s 24 Hate Crimes (2002-2015):
Source: Crime Prevention and Justice Assistance Division, Hawaii Attorney General
‘Go Back To The Mainland’
The second incident involved a 64-year-old Native Hawaiian who was “honking and shouting” at two adults on bikes while driving his vehicle close to the victims.
His utterances included anti-Caucasian epithets and orders to “go back to the mainland,” the report stated.
The offender was charged with harassment, which was dismissed with prejudice upon the offender’s successful completion of a mediation program.
OK, the cases are hardly earth-shattering and pale in comparison to Orlando. Nor is hatred locally directed only at haoles; it includes hate based on other groups, sexual orientation and religion.
But it’s clear that the islands aren’t immune from hate.
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