If you thought radical hate groups were just a problem for the Deep South, think again.
The Southern Poverty Law Center's annual count of active hate groups in the U.S., titled "The Year In Hate and Extremism," reveals that many of these factions are in fact located in and around some of America's most celebrated, progressive urban hubs.
"Most people don't understand how prevalent these groups are, even if they're quite small," SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok told Mic. "It often turns out that there's a Klan group in the next town over from you — and that's an eye-opener for many people."
By the numbers: California has the highest number of known hate groups (which, according to SLPC, includes skinheads, white nationalists and black separatists) at a whopping 57. This is followed by Florida with 50 groups, and New York with 44.
When broken down by metropolitan areas (counting cities and surrounding areas) otherwise celebrated as progressive, the numbers are jarring:
New York: 31
District of Columbia: 16
Los Angeles: 15
San Diego: 9
San Francisco / Bay Area: 6
Overall, however, the number of hate groups has dropped to its lowest levels since 2005. At 784, the 2014 count of active hate groups is also a 17% decrease from 2013, when 939 were identified.
But don't get too excited: Most of the decline in hate groups came from Ku Klux Klan chapters going underground and ending public communications rather than disbanding altogether — making them difficult to track.
A move toward anonymity: Members are avoiding public association with formal groups, and instead heading toward the anonymity of the internet. That's because, as Potok told Mic, there's now more risk involved.
"We think the move [to Internet groups] has accelerated and that seems to be because the cost of being associated with these groups continues to rise and is high," Potok said. For example, last July, as the SPLC report noted, two officers in Fruitland Park, Florida were investigated after reports that they had ties to the KKK. One immediately resigned, the other was fired.
"In an age where even more people are congregating on the Web and in social media, the radical right is doing the same," Potok said in the report. "With almost no charismatic leaders on the scene, there is little to attract radicals to join groups when they can broadcast their opinions across the world via the Internet and at the same time remain anonymous if they wish."
Hate groups are everyone's problem. With a move towards relative obscurity on the Internet, along with the reality that even the most progressive hubs aren't immune from hate groups, it's clear that everyone should pay attention to these groups' activity, no matter where they live. According to various studies, including the SPLC's report, "The Age of the Lone Wolf," more Americans have been killed by non-Islamic domestic terrorists than by jihadists.
Indeed, the presence of hate or violence should cause concern — or even better, proactive steps towards wiping them out altogether.