Militia groups are growing

Over the past decade, there’s been a growing militarization of hate groups that call themselves “militias.” These are people driven largely by white-extremists views. Many policy experts believe these people are very distraught about the growing demographic diversity of the United States. William H. Frey, Senior Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution, confirms the trend: “The nation is diversifying even faster than predicted, according to new center data.”

Militias date back to 1792, when the U.S. Congress provided for their organization and empowered the President of the United States to take command of the state militias in times of imminent invasion or insurrection. The original Militia Act was repealed and replaced in 1795, 1808 and 1862 during the Civil War. The Militia Act of 1903 repealed and superseded the Militia Act of 1795 and established the U.S. National Guard as the nation’s chief body of primary organized military reserves in the country. “Militia” generally refers to a group of able-bodied residents between certain ages who may be, at some point, called up by the government to defend the United States or an individual state.

I cannot think of any American, male or female, who would not rise to the occasion to defend the homeland against foreign or domestic invaders or terrorists.

Our nation may be diversifying faster than predicted, but that fails to explain the global growth of far-right extremists. 

A study of German society’s biggest fears, released earlier this year by the Berlin Social Science Center, showed that one in three respondents feared “foreign infiltration” because of the immigrant influx. In Germany, militias say they patrol in locations where the police do not. This has caused many Germans to worry, as militias seek to bar immigrants from entering the country and receiving jobs and social benefits in Germany.

 In the United States, militias have a recent record of violence nationwide. FBI Director Christopher Wray in his statement before the House Homeland Security Committee in September, said: “The greatest threat we face in the homeland is that posed by lone actors radicalized online who look to attack soft targets with easily accessible weapons. We see this lone actor threat manifested both within domestic violent extremists and homegrown violent extremists.”  Wray went on to say that domestic violent extremists are individuals who commit violent criminal acts to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as racial bias and anti-government sentiment. “The top threat we face from domestic violent extremists stems from those we identify as racially/ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVE). RMVEs were the primary source of ideologically motivated lethal incidents and violence in 2018 and 2019 and have been considered the most lethal of all domestic extremists since 2001.”

Will Carless and Michael Corey, writers for Reveal, of the nonprofit Center for Investigative Journalism, surmise the broader militia movement has been a breeding ground for racist domestic terrorism.

The Southern Poverty Law Center followed 940 hate groups across the United States in 2019. In North Carolina, the SPLC tracked at least forty (40) hate groups, according to Keegan Hankes, a researcher who says the number is growing. You can follow SPLC updated information on twitter @hatewatch. 

The critical question is:  What do you do about militias and hate groups in America that conspire to take the law into their own hands, such as the would-be kidnappers in Michigan and Virginia who plotted to kidnap and possibly take the life of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Governor Ralph Northam  of Virginia.  Their goal was to instigate a civil war. 

What drove these men in Michigan to think that this is okay to kidnap and threaten American governors? Why are they anti-government and plotting for social unrest? 

Cynthia Miller-Idriss, director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab and Professor of Education and Sociology School of Education at American University, has studied the issue. “The goal of the extreme right is to establish white-ethnocentric status, deportation of nonwhites or non-Europeans, and the reduction of the rights for ethnic minorities,” she writes in her book; Hate in the Homeland, The New Global Right.

 The political polarization and the silence from our governmental and political leaders, who continue to wink and nod at the behavior of these anti-American groups is troubling, to say the least.

For America to turn the tables on what the FBI director calls our greatest threat. We need the collective resolve of the people to change the hearts and minds of those who diminish nonwhite people and seek to destroy our government and our democracy. 

The road ahead will challenge us to reclaim who we are as Americans.

Virgil L. Smith formerly served as president and publisher of the Asheville Citizen-Times and Vice President for Human Resources for the Gannett Company. He is the principal for the Smith Edwards Group and writes for Carolina Commentary.

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