The geography of hate and want


Richard Florida, famed urbanist, has interesting analysis over at The Atlantic of the rise of hate groups in the last ten years. He writes:

Since 2000, the number of organized hate groups — from white nationalists, neo-Nazis and racist skinheads to border vigilantes and black separatist organizations — has climbed by more than 50 percent, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Their rise has been fueled by growing anxiety over jobs, immigration, racial and ethnic diversity, the election of Barack Obama as America’s first black president, and the lingering economic crisis. Most of them merely espouse violent theories; some of them are stock-piling weapons and actively planning attacks.

While we have long had data on the geographical sorting of such hate groups (concentrated in the south and plains states, least likely in the northwest), Florida and his team processed the data alongside demographic factors like voting patterns, economic class status, religiousity, and educational attainment. What he found is not particularly surprising: the more associated an area is with Republican voting, traditional religion, low income earnings, and low educational attainment, the more likely the presence of hate groups will be.

What I found particularly interesting was this sentence: “Hate groups, like hate crimes, are strongly associated with want. The geography of hate in America reflects and reinforces its deepening geography of class.”

In other words, those who feel deprived–whether it’s politically, economically, and/or in terms of their own educational experiences–are the most likely to vilify others. This strikes me as a macrocosm of the microcosm of how envy effects our psychology–when we are jealous of someone, it’s easy to flatten our their identity (neglecting the complexity of their stories, struggles etc.) and even feel hatred towards them. Could it be that hate groups are, at base, really suffering from a psychology of deprivation?

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3 Comments

  1. Posted May 12, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    TX and AZ rank on the lower half? You wouldnt guess that from watching the news.

  2. Posted May 12, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    There’s actual deprivation that comes from a lack of wealth and agency, and then there’s perceived deprivation based on privilege. The challenge is getting people to distinguish between the two.

  3. Posted May 14, 2011 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    Historically, a lot of the most fervent racists have been people in marginal socioeconomic positions. The KKK rose out of poor southern whites who felt jilted to see the small gains of blacks after emancipation. A lot of groups that had not historically been considered white, like the Irish, gained that status by turning on/comparing themselves to “inferior” blacks. Racism and other forms of hate can be a way for people with almost nothing to still feel superior, and to feel that they have something in owning their whiteness/straightness/insert-ingroup-membership-here.

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