The number of hate groups in the United States increased last year. Nationwide, researchers found a 3 percent rise in groups that advocate and practice hatred, hostility, or violence toward primarily members of a race, ethnicity, nation, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
This week, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released its annual "Intelligence Report" documenting the number and kind of hate groups operating across the country. California had the most hate groups in 2016, followed by Florida, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania.
Hate groups are not a new thing. The Roman Empire persecuted Christians and other religious groups for centuries. One of history's most infamous and horrifying hate groups were the Nazis. Adolf Hitler and his henchmen called for the total annihilation of Jews leading to the Holocaust and one of darkest moments in human history.
In more recent years, the act of genocide, or attempting to obliterate an entire ethnic, racial or religious group, has occurred in both Bosnia and Rwanda.
This is the second consecutive year that the number of hate groups has risen. The fear of terrorist attacks, high profile hate crimes and a contentious presidential election have all contributed to the increase.
The largest increase involved the number of anti-Muslim hate groups. The SPLC found that anti-Muslim hate groups rose from 34 in 2015 to 101 in 2016 -- a shocking increase of 197 percent.
These numbers rose without accounting for the inevitable pushback from President Donald Trump's ill-conceived travel ban and the federal court's resounding rejection of the president's executive order.
While the Ku Klux Klan nearly doubled in size during the Barack Obama Administration, according to the SPLC the number of Klan chapters fell 32 percent from 190 groups in 2015 to 130 in 2016. Interestingly, the number of neo-Confederate groups -- the KKK's first "Grand Wizard" was Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest -- rose by 23 percent from 35 groups in 2015 to 43 in 2016.
What is surprising about the five leading states with hate groups is that none -- other than perhaps Florida -- are traditional states thought of as racially or religiously intolerant. Pennsylvania, for instance, had 40 active hate groups operating within its borders in 2016, earning itself a fifth place ranking.
The majority of hate groups in Pennsylvania fall under white supremacy. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the groups include Klan chapters, neo-Nazis, racist skinheads and white nationalists. The Nation of Islam, a black separatist group, also operates in Pennsylvania.
New York, another northern state known for its liberal bent, ranks third in the nation for the number of hate groups. There are 44 hate organizations throughout the state including the American Defense League, an anti-Muslim group; the Aryan Strikeforce and the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
Hate crimes in New York City were up by nearly one-third in 2016. NYPD statistics show that anti-Muslim attacks were responsible for much of the rise, according to the New York Daily News.
The most recent statistics from the FBI cataloged a total of 5,818 hate crimes in 2015 -- a rise of about 6 percent over the previous year. Again, attacks against Muslim Americans saw the biggest surge.
According to the New York Times, there were 257 reports of assaults, attacks on mosques and other hate crimes against Muslims is 2015, a jump of about 67 percent over 2014. It was the highest total since 2001, when more than 480 attacks occurred in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 tragedy.
At this moment in America, hate is "hot." Fueled in part by the vitriolic presidential campaign and becoming increasingly combustible in the wake of the failed policy to ban "Muslim" refugees from entering this country.
There is much blame to go around, but rhetoric from the White House is doing nothing to turn down the heat.
-- Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book "The Executioner's Toll, 2010" was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.