Racists, white supremacists, militiamen, “patriots” and sundry others who spend their time stewing in rage against fellow citizens are not new in our country. They have their periods of expansion and contraction, depending on how the general public reacts at a given time. But they do not go away and will not go away.
The reasons for the presence of this violently dissident genre of Americans are complex and varied. Groups have formed in response to what members see as a federal government that has become increasingly tyrannical and threatens individual liberties. They see the instruments of federal power, such as the FBI, the ATF and more recently the Department of Homeland Security as the enemy, and there have been periodic bloody confrontations, one of the most infamous being the shootout at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992.
But such “patriotic” sentiment has morphed into much more sinister and deadly cogitations of an apocalyptic America in which blacks and other colored folk are the enemy of the Aryan or white race and they see a race war as inevitable. Several observers of the white supremacist “movement” are convinced that the more radicalized members are preparing for just such an imagined confrontation, with some of them enlisting in the military to gain the necessary training.
This period in our country’s history is believed to provide fertile ground for the growth of these organizations. One reason is the distressed economy which has devastated millions of families, many of whom have lost jobs, homes and savings and live lives of despair. The election of the first African-American president, Barack Obama, which should be hailed as a milestone in the nation’s pursuit of racial diversity, is seen by some Americans as an affront to Aryan sensibilities.
And, of course, some politicians do not hesitate to use the race card, however thinly veiled is their message, which only serves to pour fuel on the racist fires.
As the investigation into the background of the alleged Sikh Temple shooter Wade Michael Page is uncovering, young supremacists are heavily recruited through racist heavy metal and punk music. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks such individuals and groups, says that “patriot” groups numbered around 140 in just 2008 but soared to about 1,200 last year.
So we cannot be satisfied to remain blissfully unaware of this danger to our country, and especially to us black folk. Page may have indeed mistaken Sikhs for Arabs because of their headdress and beards. But there is no doubt whatsoever that the ultimate goal of all the white supremacists is not simply to try to exact revenge for 9/11 more than a decade after that act of supreme terrorism but to rid America of non-whites. This latest act of hate-filled violence calls on us, once again, to be ever vigilant.