Hate is not only a strong word; it is also a powerful emotion. Hatred has caused many acts of violence and contempt. During the 1961 Freedom Rides, the American Nazi Party drove from Arlington, Virginia to the Lower South in a “hate bus” to assist the Ku Klux Klan by intimidating the Freedom Riders. Hate was prevalent during the Civil Rights Movement, but I would argue that people were far more fearful than hateful. People fear the unknown. Within the last five decades or so, Americans have feared desegregation, miscegenation, communism, terrorism, and people who are different. More recently, the most feared group are Muslims.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) formed in Montgomery, Alabama primarily to battle hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Its museum exhibits the horrible results of fear and hatred. Too many people, as demonstrated by their Civil Rights Memorial, have suffered at the hands of hate and fear. People may say, “Well the Civil Rights Movement was fifty years ago, our society has moved passed that now.” Wrong! According to the SPLC, there were 892 active hate groups organized in the United States in 2015. Yes, Jim Crow segregation is not as explicit anymore, but hatred remains a problem as demonstrated by 190 separate KKK groups that are active more than 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement. The hatred is not limited to blacks, however. No one is protected from hatred. There are neo-Nazis, neo-confederates, anti-LGBT, extremist religious groups, black separatists, and many other hate groups scattered across the United States. As a country, we are at a point in history when hatred and fear are being exploited. The best example is Donald Trump’s campaign and the widespread support he has gained from hate groups, and their spokesmen like David Duke..
Cruz and Kasich have both halted their campaigns, and Trump is virtually guaranteed the Republican nomination. He has overcome a large obstacle on the road to the White House, and while many find it frightening, his success is deeply intriguing. In part, hate and fear fuels his campaign, yet he has unending support. As he said, he could go out onto the street, shoot and kill someone, and would not lose a single voter. However, I neither believe that every single person who supports Trump is a hateful person, nor do I believe his supporters are fearful and that Trump makes them feel safe.
I believe the same was true of white southerners during the Civil Rights Movement. In 1961 Montgomery, not every person who supported segregation attacked Freedom Riders at the bus station. Most people who supported segregation were afraid of change, miscegenation, and losing their white privilege. Segregation was normal and familiar to them, and it is understandable that they did not want to lose that. However, when fear turns into hate and hate turns into violence is when we should be worried.