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Where Hate Thrives

July 26, 2015

A study of racial and ethnic hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, in conjunction with the American Communities Project, suggests that the factors contributing most toward racism and ethnic hatred in a given geographic area are low income and high population diversity [1].

This would appear on its face to be counter-intuitive. Surely, those with little to defend would find common cause with those of differing race or ethnicity confronting similar challenges. That does not, however, seem to be the case.

Where resources are few, they are bitterly contested – all the more so, if differing groups lay claim to them.  And hate thrives.

This is how Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of African-American studies at Duke University, explains the situation:

“Very often…there’s an expectation that if you go to school in diverse neighborhoods that you would have the least amount of friction around race. But just because folks are going to school with people of the opposite race doesn’t mean that families are talking about race in a productive way…You’re talking about communities of folks who are all struggling for the same amount of resources. They may blame another group for not having access to those resources.”

Communities living in poverty, with close contact between those of different racial or ethnic backgrounds, can be found throughout the deep South and Bible Belt – in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The South, of course, has a long history of racial problems (extending from the Civil War, to Jim Crow, to present day disputes over voter registration).

What the demographics imply is that prejudice and xenophobia have deep economic roots which education alone does not overcome. Sadder still, the presence of Evangelical Christians in many of these communities has not eliminated the threat of violence.

[1] NBC News, “The Two Big Factors that Determine Where Hate Groups Thrive” by Dan Te Chinni, 7/7/15,

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  1. poverty is a shame on our nations

  2. You’re right that the presence of Christians has not done much for the problem.

  3. One of the greatest failures of the church is in its treatment of the poor. If there is any organization on earth that has the power and resources to combat poverty,it is the church. If the church would come together across denominational and cultural lines for the purpose of eradicating hunger and poverty it could once again become that “city upon the hill”.
    The combined wealth and riches of our churches is staggering to comprehend,yet the percentage of that wealth which is dedicated to the poor is just as staggering,albeit in a negative way.
    I have often wondered what God thinks about us as we build our multi million dollar sanctuaries and appropriate huge sums of money for staff salaries,while the poor and hungry among us suffer in silence. How is it that we have become so callous that we can look away from a mother that has nothing to offer her hungry children,all the while knowing we have the resources to help?
    The real tragedy is that we know exactly what God thinks about it,yet we continue on as if we do not.

  4. Hey Anna, love your writing as always. you know I am a southern evangelical Christian LOL. So me and the Southern Poverty Law Center fail to see eye to eye on a lot of things. But, that’s another story.

    I agree that racism is still rampant throughout our entire nation, and perhaps more so in the South. (Perhaps not so as well.)

    My only thought in this is that the people in the church should be at the forefront of eliminating racial prejudice, starting within their own walls at first. We have failed majorly in this area. We all know the most segregate place in America is churches in Sunday mornings.

    On the other hand, some tend to treat the Evangelical Christian community as if we are the sole and remaining bastion of bigotry in the nation, and that is not true either.

    Just my thoughts. Enjoyed this as always and I wish more Christians had a burden for the downtrodden.

    • I sincerely apologize if that was the implication, Wally. I consider myself an Evangelical by which I mean a “born again” Christian, so do not view the Evangelical community as a citadel of bigotry. My only point was that we might have expected the church to have a greater impact for good. Unfortunately, racial animosity can be found in many places. People need very few excuses to hate. As for the Southern Poverty Law Center, I do not agree with all its aims either. However, poverty and law hold special interest for me. The SPLC is one of many sources of information on those subjects.

      • Well, now my turn to say sorry! I didn’t mean to imply you implied that LOL. My comment was really in reference I guess to the segment of the world that hurls charges of bigotry at Southern Christians in the same sentence that they deny God, as if our failures as humans somehow negates God. So, I didn’t mean you, Anna. I suspect we actually see quite eye to eye on the subject of poverty.

      • No harm done. :0)

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