Hate Among Us

November 27, 2008

Hate knows no boundaries, judging from a map compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It’s especially disconcerting to see the presence of hate groups in my city, Portland.

But I’m not naïve about such matters. After all, I grew up mainly in the South. Not that racism wasn’t rampant in the Northwest. I’ve read extensively about the Ku Klux Klan’s robust activities in Oregon during the early part of the last century.

Such vile groups have left a more recent and tragic mark in Portland. Twenty years ago this month, a member of a skinhead Neo-Nazi group beat to death an Ethiopian man with a baseball bat. It happened a short drive from my house. The crime and the white supremacy movement is dissected in an extraordinary book, A Hundred Little Hitlers. (The Southern Poverty Law Center figures prominently in the story.) I much admire the writer, Elinor Langer, and had the privilege of taking an inspirational graduate writing class she taught at Portland State University.

If I’m out tomorrow for a walk before Thanksgiving dinner, will I unknowlingly pass on the sidewalk members of the Northwest Hammerskins, Apostles of Adolf Hitler, or their brethren groups? It makes me wonder what they’ll give thanks for when breaking bread.