I feel like I've become the News 9 expert on hate groups in Oklahoma.
Last year I took on an assignment that focused on the number of active hate groups the Southern Poverty Law Center claimed was in Oklahoma. The number was 16 in 2006. It decreased to 13 in 2007.
The center's new report claims there are now 888 hate groups in America - a 48% increase since 2000. My story today (Sunday) was a follow-up to last year's report and the SPLC's claim that these hate groups are now using the illegal immigration debate to recruit more members.
Here are my thoughts:
There's no doubt in my mind that hate groups do exist and some of the organizations do target blacks, hispanics, gays and anybody else who doesn't look and act like them, however, I don't think all the groups listed on the SPLC's list are what the center accuses them of being.
Last year's list included a book store based in Tulsa. Yup, a book store. I questioned a spokesman at the law center about this and he couldn't give me a clear answer to why a book store would be listed as a "hate group."
So, here's what I recommend:
The best thing for all of us to do is research each group before passing judgment on an organization. Sure, we all know what the KKK is about, but even that well-known group has shifted from the traditional cross burnings in the yards of black families to more of a politically active group that attempts to influence lawmakers into believing in what they stand for.
Unless you can honestly say you know exactly what groups like the National Socialist Movement, American National Socialist Workers' Party and Artisan Publishers stand for, I wouldn't recommend depending on the SPLC's list of hate groups for guidance.
Do the homework and research and decide for yourself if Oklahoma does, in fact, have 13 "hate groups" or if we simply have organizations that express strong and different views that a majority of us disagree with.
There IS a difference.