Story and Photos by Hailey Tucker
With his evident knowledge of history and welcoming demeanor, few people-perhaps none-in Austin's community would guess the extent of his racism. Austin, born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, is a white supremacist.
Austin, whose name has been changed for this story, is a member of the Creativity movement. Creators, as the movement's followers call themselves, believe white people are the epitome of evolution. Creativity's sacred texts denounce all religion and encourage followers to be wary of conspiracies within their government, media and educational systems.
"What is good for the white race is the highest virtue. What is bad for the white race is the ultimate sin," Austin explains as the main premise of Creativity.
Creativity is one variation of a pro-white movement encouraging racial segregation and preaching the superiority of a skin color.
HATE GROUPS: THE NUMBERS
White supremacy is one hate movement in the United States that has been on the rise for more than 10 years. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in Montgomery, Ala., estimates 923 active hate groups exist in the country, up from 602 in 2000, says Janet Smith, one of the center's research analysts.
The SPLC aims to track, educate about and ultimately disband hate groups. Smith says the numbers compiled by the center are some of the most accurate estimates in the country.
"We try not to get one guy with a computer and dog and say that's a hate group. We try to make sure they have meetings, they distribute literature. That's what makes them active," Smith says.
The national hate group total includes racial hate groups as well as anti-gay and anti-government groups. It does not, however, include some of the newly formed anti-immigrant groups, which are also racially focused. Smith attributes the increase in hate groups and similar movements in past years to recent political developments.
"A lot of it has to do with our first black president," Smith says. "It's the economy too. When things go south in the economy, people will look for someone to blame."
In Washington, the SPLC identified 15 active hate groups in 2009, 14 of which are racially focused.
Despite the common assumption that racism is limited to areas with conservative politics, the numbers dispel the popular belief.
The SPLC found Pierce, King and Spokane County to be the counties in Washington with the most active hate groups. The majority in all three voted for Barack Obama in 2008. As a state, Washington voted liberal but still has more active hate groups than any other state in the Northwest, including the traditionally conservative-voting states of Idaho and Montana.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2009 population estimates, Washington has almost six times the population of Idaho or Montana. The most active counties in Washington are also of the most populous in the state, suggesting racism might have more to do with population than politics.
The increasing popularity of the racial hate movement may be due to a shift in the movement's social image. Racial hate groups seem to be trying to avoid the "in-your-face" tactics people are more familiar with, and streamline the movement to be more muted and acceptable in mainstream society, says Western sociology professor Glenn Tsunokai, who specializes in race relations.
Hate groups have also become more prevalent since the advent of the Internet. Tsunokai says it allows individuals who usually would not join a hate group because there is not one nearby, to do so.
"You're with a group of people who you feel like are just like you. The Internet is helping you to meet some sort of need. If you're really depressed, and you want someone to blame, it's giving you that target, and so there's a real sense of community. Even though they may be dispersed all over the country, and they may never see each other, they still feel like they're a part of something," Tsunokai says.
MENTALITY BEHIND RACIAL PREFERENCE
For Austin, whose racism is unknown to his community, the Internet allows him to communicate with other pro-white groups and sell racist merchandise without tarnishing his relationships offline.
"As the situation [of multiculturalism] gets worse, you feel more compelled to do something about it-or I do...but it's hard when you have a job and you live in a community, and you don't want people to hate you," Austin says.
He says his racism began around the age of 18. He describes a series of events that opened his eyes to what he considers the falsity of racial equality.
Austin says his frustration in a college diversity course was one of the critical events that influenced his racism. He describes it as "the most anti-white situation" he has ever experienced. After being told all white people were inherently racist because of history and white privilege, Austin says he started doubting the lessons of equality.
Tsunokai says this is a common feeling among racists. They look at affirmative action, or other programs meant to help lessen the impacts of historical racism, and start to say the system has been overturned, making them the new victims.
Austin describes his hatred toward other races as something more deeply embedded in philosophy than something of mere disdain.
"We feel like we're under threat from losing our identity," Austin says. "That feeling breeds resentment and feelings of hatred in the sense that you want to strike back at the people who might become your oppressors because you are the minority now."
Creativity followers believe human races are different subspecies, each competing against the other for survival. Despite the many factors other than race that explain statistics showing nonwhite people being more frequently involved in crimes, Austin says the only factor is DNA.
"It's really ingrained in blood. It's genetic. It's not based on economic factors or religion or institutional ized racism," Austin says. "It's based on science. The white race is the most advanced race...it's just like dogs. You know, a mutt is a mutt. A purebred dog is a purebred dog. Nobody wants a mutt because-it's not like it grew up in bad economic condition-it has an ingrained genetic problem."
Tsunokai says biology studies show there are not significant genetic differences between humans. He does, however, maintain that race exists as a social construct and therefore, cannot be ignored. Creativity argues historical events demonstrate the superiority of whites' genes. Austin justifies the success of President Barack Obama with this belief. He says Obama is not black, but is half white, and would have never reached his level of success if it had not been for the white half of his heritage.
Despite the hatred Austin holds for other races, he says he does not see violence as a solution. Even if violence eliminates some nonwhite individuals, Austin says, it can turn other white people away from the movement or put racists in jail, which he believes is counterproductive.
This belief falls in line with the trend Tsunokai describes as making racism more palatable for mainstream society. Austin, however, is the first to admit Creativity is different from many racist groups in this way.
"We want to protect and expand the white race, but we don't want to do it shouting, ÔSieg Heil,' or anything like that, like wearing swastika armbands," Austin says.
Despite Austin claiming he does not see violence as a productive way to achieve the goals of white supremacy, many others do.
When hate speech is legally determined to be a "true threat" or when criminal activities can be linked to a prejudicial motive, they are considered hate crimes.
In 2008, 7,783 hate crimes were recorded nationally, according to the FBI's Hate Crime Statistics.
Of these, Washington reported 239 hate crimes, which is comparable to the state of Texas. Despite a difference of 18 million more individuals being monitored in Texas, Washington had only eight fewer reported hate crimes.
The FBI statistics are based on voluntary reporting by individual law enforcement agencies in each state, so Smith argues they are grossly underestimated.
Tsunokai says hate crimes are often not committed by hate groups, who are the expected culprits.
"Surprisingly, a lot of the things that happen, in terms of violence that happen, are not perpetuated by hate group members. They're individuals who just dabble into these things," Tsunokai says.
Although Tsunokai and Smith are not optimistic about the present situation, they both argue changes can be made.
"You can never change people's minds, but you can change their behaviors," Tsunokai says.
He advocates legal repercussions for hate-motivated actions would provide hate groups with incentives to keep their opinions to themselves. Smith says education seems to be the best way to fight racism.
"They use fear to prey on people," Smith says, arguing people need to recognize this tactic.
Austin's idea of the future involves the government offering incentives for all nonwhite people to leave countries where white people live.
"Our belief is that if we didn't subsidize other people, like in Africa, with food aid, then they'd probably just die off on their own," he says.
Other pro-white groups believe a racial holy war, often referred to as RaHoWa, in which each race is pitted against another, is the inevitable future.
Although Tsunokai says he does not foresee a massive white uprising, he says the trends indicate different hate groups are beginning to associate with each other more than before.
Austin agrees, saying even though religion and politics may differ greatly among groups, such topics are of little importance compared to the goal of an all-white nation.
The growing popularity of this mission and changes in the movement that break the stereotypical idea of racism indicate our country is still divided based on color. Although an overt racial war may seem unlikely, the increasing amount of hatred, whether it is across Washington or in an individual, is apparent.