“The tough part is that there is no clear-cut answer to who joins these groups and why,” Angela King, 35, told The Root. She was active in white-supremacist groups for eight years, starting when she was 15. “There are people from so many different backgrounds, different socioeconomic backgrounds, anything you can imagine. They’re not just poor white kids, kids from broken homes. You’ve got people from perfect families, who never suffered any kind of abuse … professionals, police officers, lawyers, not just somebody you’d find flipping burgers at a fast-food place.”
King decided to abandon her belief in white supremacy after befriending several Jamaican immigrants, convicted drug mules, while in prison in her native south Florida. Having been locked up for three years for an armed-robbery conviction, she has now relocated to a state that she does not want to publicly disclose. (Pledging a lifelong commitment and then leaving hate groups makes you a target, she says.) King has since earned two college degrees. She is a restaurant manager and social-justice activist, lecturing and organizing against race hatred.
That the scourge of hate continues to spread does not surprise researchers at the Montgomery, Ala.-based SPLC. “What we’re hoping to do is bring a public awareness so that people understand there is a significant and violent radical-right wing,” said Mark Potok, editor of the Intelligence Report. “In no way do we want to suppress free speech or extremely robust political debate … but we’re seeing an enormous amount of anti-immigrant propaganda and a demonizing of particular groups of people that sets up members of these hate groups to commit acts of violence.”
Brooklyn, N.Y.-based freelancer Katti Gray writes for several national and regional news organizations.