The FBI is investigating the discovery of a "KKK-style cross" left in the driveway of a Moraga home. The San Francisco Chronicle says the home belongs to a white couple whose son was visiting over the weekend with his African-American wife. According to the East Bay Daze, the 3-foot-tall object was a "fairly sophisticated rendering of the klan's 'flaming cross'--with this one wrapped in t-shirts and the KKK insignia.
It's natural to worry that this latest incident in Moraga is part of something very dark going on in our society, in the wake of the United States electing its first non-white president nearly a year ago.
On Sunday, I was listening to Brian Copeland on his regular Sunday morning talk show on KGO radio, and he was expressing alarm at the hysteria surrounding Obama's speech to school children Tuesday.
He contended this hysteria represented a growing atmosphere of hate and racism in our society--sparked by some people's resentment about a black man being in office. Copeland noted the nastiness, anger, and resentment in rhetoric behind the birther movement, the town hall shout-downs, and people showing up at Obama appearances armed with guns. Copeland also said there had been an increase in the number of threats against the president's life.
Copeland first addressed this issue back in November, shortly after Obama was elected. Around that time, as I reported, an African-American family in Pleasanton was targeted by anti-Obama vandalism. Vandals had slashed their elect Obama lawn sign and all the tires on their two cars. Obama's name and profanities were spray-painted onto their garage and cars, and their home was egged and toilet papered.
Right after Obama was elected, news reports were coming in from across the country of cross burnings, school children in Idaho chanting "Assassinate Obama," black figures hung from nooses, and racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars.
More recently, in Walnut Creek, an employee at a North Main Street Midas auto service shop reported to KTVU that he endured repeated racial slurs from a mechanic and, as some kind of sick joke, seeing a noose hung in a work area. The employee complained to his manager but the manager failed to reprimand the mechanic or get him to stop his behavior. The Midas shop's owner has since said that the mechanic and the manager won't be fired, though they might deserve it, but will try counseling and community service.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, an internationally renowned civil rights organization that tracks the activities of hate groups, reports that right-wing militias, after a decade of largely disappearing from public view, are making a comeback, appearing in large numbers around the country. What's got them irked is that the federal government, their longtime target, is now headed by a black man.
"That, coupled with high levels of non-white immigration and a decline in the percentage of whites overall in America, has helped to racialize the Patriot movement, which in the past was not primarily motivated by race hate," the center reports. "One result has been a remarkable rash of domestic terror incidents since the presidential campaign, most of them related to anger over the election of Barack Obama. At the same time, ostensibly mainstream politicians and media pundits have helped to spread Patriot and related propaganda, from conspiracy theories about a secret network of U.S. concentration camps to wholly unsubstantiated claims about the president's country of birth."
The center says there are 84 active hate groups operating in California.
And guess what?!? According to the center, we're lucky enough to have a local group of racist skinheads. The group is called Volksfront, and it has a chapter in Concord. Volksfront, an international fraternal organization for "persons of European descent," says it represents "the independent voice of the white working class." Since October 1994, Volksfront has been at "the forefront of the struggle for white autonomy, white self-determination and the issues of the white working class."
The Anti-Defamation League calls this band of brothers, the most active neo-Nazi group on the West Coast, "virulently racist and anti-semitic."
So, are things really getting ugly out there, not just in the places you'd usually expect, but in so-called decent, respectablec ommunities like Moraga, Pleasanton, and Concord? If so, what do you think we should do about it?