Special Report

10 States With the Most Hate Groups

ThinkstockPhotos-185926162Sexual orientation, race, religious affiliation, and other, often immutable, characteristics are still the basis for discrimination and violence in the United States. While the organized hatred of entire groups of people is not a widespread practice, such activity tends to be more concentrated in some states than in others. More hate groups are operating in Mississippi relative to its population than in any other state.

Based on data from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there are 784 active hate groups nationwide. Hate group activities vary considerably, from verbal attacks in speeches or publications to the promotion of violence. The SPLC classifies an organization as a hate group if its ideologies attack or malign an entire set of people.

Click here to see the 10 states with the most hate groups.

White nationalist or white supremacist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, and neo-Confederates are by far the most common hate groups in the United States. And African Americans are by far the most victimized group of people by hate group activity and other, less extreme forms of discrimination.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Mark Potok, senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said, “segregation contributes to distrust between the races.” Dislike, intolerance, and hatred seem to diminish when people live alongside each other, and these attitudes are more likely to flourish when people are separated.

Not only can segregation damage race relations in a community, but also it has generated poor economic and social outcomes for many African Americans. According to Richard Rothstein, research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, federal housing policies in the 20th century are largely to blame for ongoing racial segregation and its economic effects.

For example, in the last 60 years, black families were intentionally excluded from affordable housing options across the nation. Since wealth largely comes from housing investments, and home values have increased dramatically over that time in many areas, those policies have exacerbated income and wealth disparities, Rothstein explained. Black Americans earn about 60% of what white Americans do, and accumulated wealth among typical black households is a mere 6% of the typical white household.

Those federal segregation policies, and the resulting economic fallout for black Americans, have contributed to lower educational attainment rates in segregated schools among other negative characteristics. These characteristics are in turn used to justify racist attitudes and can lead to white people fleeing suburban neighborhoods when black families move in. This happens even among ordinary people, who Rothstein said, “Don’t understand that these characteristics are not characteristics of the people but of the social conditions that [were] created for them.”

Segregation is a nationwide phenomenon, however, and while it can lead to hatred which in turn may partly account for an individual’s participation in a hate group, it does not fully explain high concentrations of hate organizations in a given state. With only two exceptions, the states with the highest concentrations of hate groups are located in the South.

In eight of the 10 states with the highest concentration of hate groups, a higher share of the state population identified as black than the national proportion of 12.6%. According to Potok, black and white residents in these states have been living together for a very long time. While greater diversity might be expected to yield greater tolerance, however, this has not been the case in much of the South. Forced migration from slavery is the cause of the high concentration of blacks in these states.

The legacy of racial hatred in the South contributes to the high concentration of hate groups. There is a belief among many Americans in the South that “the [Civil] war wasn’t even over slavery, that the South has been pilloried, defeated militarily, and treated terribly ever since,” Potok said. Many people who feel that way can be more likely to form a hate-based ideology and actually join hate groups, Potok explained.

Right wing politics is also associated with a higher concentration of hate groups. A right wing political climate “provides a kind of milieu in which these groups seem to thrive or at least do relatively well,” Potok said. While far from endorsing any discrimination, let alone hate, right wing and conservative politics can color the policies in these states. For example, hate crime laws in the South do not cover sexual orientation hate crimes.

Far lower percentages of adults in the states with the most hate groups had at least a high school diploma. For Potok, the association between hatred and education is straightforward. People with higher levels of education tend to be more cosmopolitan — and more tolerant as a result. In addition, when people learn more about the human condition, “[they] start to see that the differences between [people] are relatively superficial,” said Potok.

To identify the states with the most hate groups, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the number of active hate groups in each state from the Southern Poverty Law Center. States were ranked on the number of active hate groups per 1 million state residents. For statistical reasons, we could not calculate reliable rates for hate groups in 21 states. These states were excluded from our analysis. Median household income, poverty rates, educational attainment rates, the percentage of each state’s population identifying as black or white, came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ASC) — all for 2013.

These are the states with the most hate groups.

10. Louisiana
> Hate groups per 1 million:
> Number of hate groups: 15 (21st most)
> Adults with at least bachelor’s degree: 22.5% (5th smallest)
> Pct. pop. identifying as white: 62.9% (6th lowest)

There are 15 active hate groups in Louisiana, or 3.2 per 1 million state residents, the 10th highest proportion nationwide. The Aryan Nations Knights and the Loyal White Knights — each chapters of the Ku Klux Klan — are among the 15 groups. Many of the groups are known for promoting racism towards blacks, with Aryan, neo-Nazi, and Skinhead groups making up a bulk of Louisiana’s hate organizations. New Orleans and Shreveport, however, are each also home to chapters of Nation of Islam, a group with its own racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-gay overtones. Segregation, which manifests along physical and economic lines, is often both the result and the cause of hatred. Like nearly every other state where hate groups are the most prevalent, white and black Louisiana residents tend to earn very different incomes. A typical white household earns $32,200 more than a typical black household annually, the largest such gap nationwide.

ALSO READ: 20 Cities With the Widest Gap Between the Rich and Poor

9. Virginia
> Hate groups per 1 million:
> Number of hate groups: 27 (9th most)
> Adults with at least bachelor’s degree: 36.1% (6th largest)
> Pct. pop. identifying as white: 69.3% (15th lowest)

Roughly 20% of Virginia residents identify as black, well above the national proportion of 12.6%, as is the case in most states on this list. Unlike most states with the highest concentrations of active hate groups, Virginia residents are relatively well educated. More than 36% of state adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, the sixth highest attainment rate in the country. The state’s median household income of $62,666 is also unusually high compared with other top states for hate groups, although the gap between white and black household incomes is still among the largest nationwide. White supremacist groups such as Creativity Alliance, the American Nazi Party, and Aryan Nations, are among the most common organized hate groups in Virginia. Anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and anti-LGBT groups are also among the state’s active hate organizations.

8. Kentucky
> Hate groups per 1 million:
> Number of hate groups: 16 (18th most)
> Adults with at least bachelor’s degree: 22.6% (6th smallest)
> Pct. pop. identifying as white: 87.7% (11th highest)

Racist white supremacist organizations, including neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations, several Ku Klux Klan chapters, and the neo-Confederate Southern National Congress, make up a bulk of the state’s hate groups. Black residents tend to make up larger shares of the populations in states where hate groups are most prevalent. However, 8% of Kentuckians identify as black, lower than the national proportion of nearly 13%. In most southern states with a high number of racist organizations, a legacy of slavery has contributed to a high concentration of black residents. In Kentucky, however, just 8% of the population identifies as black.

7. Alabama
> Hate groups per 1 million:
> Number of hate groups: 18 (17th most)
> Adults with at least bachelor’s degree: 23.5% (7th smallest)
> Pct. pop. identifying as white: 68.9% (13th lowest)

Historically, Alabama has been a hotbed for racial tension and hate crimes, and bigotry lingers in the state. Alabama has one of the highest concentrations of hate groups in the country. Like many of the states on this list, Alabama has a high rate of poverty and very low rates of educational attainment. An estimated 18.7% of the state’s population lives below the poverty line, and 23.5% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, each seventh-worst in the country. Like many of the states with a high concentration of hate groups, a relatively large proportion of the state’s population are black. Most of the hate groups in the state are also known to specifically target black people. The state has multiple chapters of white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, skinheads, and neo-Nazis. The one exception is the single chapter of the Nation of Islam based in Birmingham.

6. South Carolina
> Hate groups per 1 million:
> Number of hate groups: 19 (15th most)
> Adults with at least bachelor’s degree: 26.1 (12th smallest)
> Pct. pop. identifying as white: 67.2% (9th lowest)

The recent tragedy in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston was a brutal reminder of the hatred faced by the 27.6% of the state’s population who identify as black. Though violent crime is not significantly more common in South Carolina than it is across the country, the prevalence of organized racial hatred and intolerance is. White supremacy is a key component of the ideologies in 16 of the state’s 19 active hate groups, including the racist skinhead group out of Columbia, Confederate Hammerskins. In 2013, over half of the hate crimes reported in South Carolina were racially motivated, though this number is likely much higher as only 11.6% of law enforcement agencies in the state report hate crimes, one of the lowest rates in the country.

ALSO READ: 10 States With the Most Gun Violence

5. Tennessee
> Hate groups per 1 million:
> Number of hate groups: 29 (7th most)
> Adults with at least bachelor’s degree: 24.8% (10th smallest)
> Pct. pop. identifying as white: 77.9% (22nd lowest)

Tennessee is the 17th-most populous state, but it has 29 active hate groups, which is the seventh most in the country. In 2013, 245 hate crimes were reported in Tennessee, the eighth most in the country. Just 37.9% of law enforcement districts in the state actively classify hate crimes, which means that figure was likely much higher. Like most of the states with a high concentration of hate groups, primarily white nationalist groups dominate the list. Hate groups include Ku Klux Klan branches such as the Southern Mountain Knights, the Original Knight Riders Knights, and the Loyal White Knights, as well as neo-Nazi groups such as the Creativity Alliance and the Aryan Nations. There are also several anti-Muslim groups, including Citizen Warrior and Political Islam. Perhaps as evidence of anti-muslim sentiment in the state, Tennessee is one of seven to have passed legislation banning Shariah Law, which proponents mistakenly believe would allow Muslims to impose brutal punishments such as stoning and amputation, practices not permitted under the U.S. constitution.

4. New Jersey
> Hate groups per 1 million:
> Number of hate groups: 40 (4th most)
> Adults with at least bachelor’s degree: 36.6% (5th largest)
> Pct. pop. identifying as white: 68.2% (10th lowest)

Unlike most of the states with the highest concentrations of hate groups, New Jersey has a relatively wealthy, highly-educated population. Median household income in New Jersey is $70,165, and 36.6% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, each ranking in the top five among all states. New Jersey has 40 separate active hate groups, the fourth most in the country. Numerous hate groups may have increased the likelihood of hate crimes — 447 hate crimes were reported in New Jersey in 2013, the third most in the country. The figure includes 187 racially-motivated hate crimes and 121 religiously-motivated hate crimes. Less than 45% of the state’s law enforcement reports hate crimes, which means that number of hate crimes was likely significantly higher. The majority of the state’s hate groups, 22 in all, are skinhead organizations, including 14 chapters of AC Skins and three chapters of the American Front.

ALSO READ: The States With the Strongest Unions

3. Idaho
> Hate groups per 1 million:
> Number of hate groups: 10 (24th fewest)
> Adults with at least bachelor’s degree: 26.2% (13th smallest)
> Pct. pop. identifying as white: 91.5% (5th largest)

Idaho has one of the highest concentrations of hate groups in the country. It is one of the least populous states in the country yet it has 10 active hate groups — as many as its neighbor, Washington, which has more than four times Idaho’s population. Almost all of the state’s hate groups are white supremacist, including two Aryan Nations branches, neo-Confederate group The League of the South, and the skinhead organization Northwest Hammerskins. The high concentration of white supremacists likely is due in large part to Richard Butler, a founder and leader of the Aryan Nations. Butler moved to the state in 1974 and urged other whites sympathetic to his cause to join him in creating an exclusively white sovereign territory. One of the reasons Butler gave for locating in Idaho was an absence of nonwhite people. Even today, there is relatively little diversity in the state: only 0.6% of Idaho’s population identifies as black, a smaller proportion than any other state but Montana.

2. Arkansas
> Hate groups per 1 million:
> Number of hate groups: 20 (14th most)
> Adults with at least bachelor’s degree: 20.6% (3rd lowest)
> Pct. pop. identifying as white: 77.9% (3rd smallest)

With 20 active hate groups and just under 3 million residents, Arkansas is home to the second highest ratio of hate groups per million residents in the country. In the city of Harrison alone, there are four distinct Ku Klux Klan chapters, including Knights of the KKK and Knights Party Veterans League. There appears to be a relationship between poor rates of educational attainment and the presence of racist groups. Just over 20% of Arkansas residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the third lowest rate in the country.

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1. Mississippi
> Hate groups per 1 million:
> Number of hate groups: 22 (12th most)
> Adults with at least bachelor’s degree: 4 (20.4% 2nd smallest)
> Pct. pop. identifying as white: 59.0% (3rd lowest)

With a population of 3 million and 22 active hate groups, Mississippi has the highest concentration of hate groups in the country. Poorly educated populations are among the most likely to participate in hate groups. Only 20.4% of adults in the state have a bachelor’s degree or higher, the second smallest share in the U.S. The Council Of Conservative Citizens, a white nationalist group, has chapters in four cities across the state, while the black separatist group Nation of Islam has chapters in three.

Active Hate Groups by State
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