Profiles of White Supremacist Groups in America
Social Justice Policy Brief #35 | By: Erika Shannon | March 14, 2022
Header photo taken from: NBC News
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Photo taken from: Southern Poverty Law Center
The United States is attempting to heal in many ways since Donald Trump’s term as our President. One of the effects of a Trump Presidency in America was the rise in membership in many right-wing hate groups. Members of these groups took the former President’s silence on their views as silent agreement on their behavior , and ran with it. Right wing groups gained new members and new momentum. The boldness of these groups became evident on January 6, 2021, when members of the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and several other extremist groups attempted to storm the Capitol Building and stop the counting of electoral votes for the 2020 election.
In order to figure out a way to eradicate hate groups in the U.S., it is important to understand the demographics of these groups. While the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) estimates there are over 733 hate groups across the U.S., we’ve compiled information on three of these groups whose names have frequently been in the media over the past several years. We wanted to know who seeks membership in them, where are the primary states of membership, and since Trump has left office, do these right-wing extremist organizations still have the momentum they did at the end of his term?
L-R: The Proud Boys (est. 2016), The Oath Keepers (est. 2009), and The Rise Above Movement (est. 2017). Two of these hate groups formed in the wake of Trump-era politics.
Photos taken from: Southern Poverty Law Center, The Anti-Defamation League, and The Conversation
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The Proud Boys were established during the 2016 presidential election season by VICE Media co-founder Gavin McInnes. According to SPLC, the Proud Boys are self-described as “Western chauvinists,” and frequently deny any connection to the racist “alt-right.” However, the group is known for spouting white nationalist and anti-Muslim rhetoric. They also believe the media pushes an anti-white agenda, and white people are the “true minority.” There are four degrees of Proud Boy Membership, and the first degree is simply to declare the phrase, “I am a Western chauvinist, and I refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” The second degree involves being beaten until you can yell out the names of five breakfast cereals to demonstrate adrenaline control. The third degree is getting a Proud Boys tattoo, and to enter the fourth degree you must get in a fight for the cause.
The Proud Boys have 119 active chapters across 46 states that are nationally recognized by the organization. There are also international chapters in Canada, Britain, Ireland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Australia, and the Philippines. Their colors are primarily black and yellow. While the Proud Boys have not made much waves since the January 6th Insurrection last year, they have been tied to anti-mask and anti-vaccine activism. This includes showing up at school board meetings and related protests and rallies to show opposition to mask and vaccine mandates.
The Oath Keepers are an anti-government, right-wing political organization whose mission is to defend their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. They have associations with the militia movement, which believes that the federal government is part of a conspiracy to strip Americans of their natural rights and freedoms. They were founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, an Army veteran, and have approximately 5,000 or so members, though they claim to have upwards of 30,000 members. The group only obeys commands that do not violate their “Declaration of Orders.” Those orders have been outlined by the Anti-Defamation League and can be read here. The Oath Keepers respond and support local communities when law and order breaks down or when they feel law enforcement officers have overstepped their Constitutional bounds.
The efforts of the Oath Keepers, however, are not well intentioned by normal standards of society. They often promote disobedience to authority and put forth racist rhetoric. Their presence was seen when they confronted protesters at ANTIFA and Black Lives Matters rallies, and they took part in the January 6 capitol riot. Twelve members of the organization face conspiracy charges stemming from the January 6 insurrection. The group is large enough to pose a significant threat to society, though their disorganization may be their downfall when trying to assert their ideals.
Rise Above Movement
The Rise Above Movement is a white supremacist group based in Southern California, whose members wish to fight against a modern world corrupted by liberals, Jews, Muslims, and non-white immigrants. While the group began in Southern California, today’s membership is mostly online-only, and the group’s current leader, Robert Rundo, is living in Eastern Europe. They are a violent group, and members allegedly train to fight physical battles with their ideological foes. The Rise Above Movement refers to themselves as the “premier MMA club of the alt right” and often spout racist, anti-Semitic views and other acts of intolerance at events and online.
In recent years, membership has waned, and there is thought to be less than twenty active members in the group. Since several members were arrested in association with the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, the group has shifted their efforts to mostly online, with less public appearances since the 2019 arrests and charges. While they do not have power in numbers as other far-right groups do, they are a violent group and that in and of itself could be cause for concern.
It is clear that far right hate groups have been in the spotlight far more than in year’s prior, and that was in part due to the rhetoric of former President Trump. In order for America to continue to renew itself and purge itself of the hate that built up over the course of four years of the Trump administration, we must find ways to disassemble these white supremacist groups. Understanding membership and ideals of these groups can help to steer people clear of them and their toxic ideologies; and hopefully, help stop the spread of hate in the United States.