Texas ranks near the top of the list of so-called "hate groups." That is according to the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in its annual report "The Year In Hate," which lists the total number of hate groups nationwide and by state. Texas ranked third for the number of hate groups with 57, trailing only California (77) and Florida (58). "That is not perhaps as bad as it might sound, in the sense that Texas is a very big and populous state, and we tend to get large numbers of these groups where there is a large population," says Mark Potok, SPLC fellow and author of the study.
Potok tells KTRH he used to live in Texas, and he is familiar with a certain brand of groups in this state that could make the SPLC list. "There's a real tradition of the so-called constitutionalist groups, opposition to the federal government, viewing the federal government as kind of the enemy to the people," he says. However, the list goes far beyond anti-government militia types. "The groups in Texas are quite different," says Potok. "Some of them are white supremacist groups like the Klan, some are national socialist groups, real life neo-nazi groups, and others are black supremacist groups, like the New Black Panther Party, or the Nation of Islam."
While the SPLC does include groups from across the political spectrum on its lists of "hate groups," the organization has been criticized often for including many mainstream Christian and conservative groups along with the extreme examples listed by Potok. For that reason, the "Year In Hate" report is often a source of controversy upon its annual release. For his part, Potok points out the overall number of hate groups on this year's list (939) is down seven percent from last year, reversing a four-year trend. "The takeoff of these groups that we saw beginning in early 2009 (when President Obama took office) was really remarkable, something we hadn't seen before," he says. "But it apparently has reversed and may continue to go down."