Hate Groups: Preparing for an Obama Win?

We spoke with a white supremacist, as well as a hate-group expert, about how racists see Nov. 6.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images News; David S. Holloway/Getty Images News
Spencer Platt/Getty Images News; David S. Holloway/Getty Images News

(The Root) — When retired Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson denounced the Republican Party as “full of racists” in a recent interview, he ignited a firestorm. Though the comments were not the first time the Republican Party had been accused of being the chosen party for those harboring racist tendencies, it did mark one of the first times a high-profile Republican made such a stinging accusation.

Wilkerson made the remarks while defending his former boss and fellow Republican, former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell’s endorsement of Democratic President Barack Obama led some Republicans, among them Romney campaign surrogate John Sununu, to speculate that Powell’s presidential choice was motivated by race. While these developments led to fresh allegations that the Republican Party is the party of racists, there has been little coverage of the activity of actual, self-identified racists this election cycle, specifically those within the white supremacist movement.

In an interview with The Root, Mark Potok, one of the country’s leading experts on hate groups, said that the day after President Obama was elected there were so many new people expressing interest in white supremacist groups that websites for some of those groups actually crashed. Among the groups mentioned by Potok, who serves as director of publications at the Southern Poverty Law Center, were Stormfront, a popular online message board for the white supremacist movement, and the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), which has been called “the white-collar Klan.”

A White Supremacist Weighs In

Founded by Gordon Baum in 1985, the CCC is considered by many to be the ideological heir apparent to the White Citizens Council, a group that became notorious at the height of the civil rights movement for being the upper-class alternative to the Ku Klux Klan. Instead of burning crosses on lawns, the White Citizens Council employed tactics such as printing the names of NAACP members in newspapers, as well as paying the legal bills for Byron De La Beckwith, who assassinated NAACP worker Medgar Evers.

Baum, a former organizer for the White Citizens Council, launched the CCC by relying on old White Citizens Council membership lists. Among the Council’s core principles as of 2012: opposition to illegal immigration, homosexuality and opposing “all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote nonwhite races over the European-American people through so-called ‘affirmative action’ and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.”

Speaking to The Root, Baum said that the Council of Conservative Citizens does not consider itself a political group. “Normally we just try to get our people out to vote. We don’t try to dictate to them who to vote for.” The Council has a highly publicized and controversial political history. In 1998 the Washington Post revealed that Republican Sen. Trent Lott and other conservative Southern politicians had spoken at CCC events. One of Lott’s relatives claimed Lott had even been a member. Current Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker is alleged to have attended a group event in 2000. After public scrutiny most politicians renounced the organization’s openly racist ideology. But according to Baum, while publicly politicians no longer embrace the group, privately plenty maintain ties to it.