Racial and religious tensions dominate the headlines today with police shootings of unarmed civilians, and even more controversy over Beyoncé’s new video and Super Bowl performance. In a time when presidential candidates openly call for discrimination against Muslims and legislation is pending in many states to allow discrimination based on religion, it’s clear America has a long way to go in developing tolerance toward other groups.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has been one of the groups fighting for racial and social justice since 1971, and they have teamed up with Investigation Discovery and Emmy award-winning journalist Tony Harris for ID’s latest series, Hate in America. The series debuts February 29 with the episode “The Klan on Trial,” but the network released a preview to the media for the series.
The first case featured is the lynching of 19-year-old Michael Donald in Mobile, Alabama, in 1981. Two men randomly chose Donald, slitting his throat before hanging him and putting him on public display to send a message of fear to African-Americans. After successfully winning convictions for Donald’s murderers with an all-white jury in Alabama, SPLC founder Morris Dees went on to sue the United Klans of America (UKA) on behalf of Donald’s mother, Beulah. The $7 million award crippled the KKK at that time by forcing them into bankruptcy, but the seeds of hate in America remain.
The SPLC just released their 2015 Intelligence Report this week, and their data shows that extremist groups in America have grown by 14 percent since 2014, and that 892 known hate groups currently exist in this country, including racially-motivated and anti-Semitic groups such as white nationalists, neo-Nazis and scattered members of the KKK. While many of these groups originally targeted people of color and those of Jewish faith, they’ve now expanded into targeting the LGBT and Muslim communities.
With the current racial and political climate, Harris felt these stories needed to be told in Hate in America.
“My objective [is] investigating the pivotal cases that put the SPLC on the map. Cases that are more relevant than ever today, given the state of racial relations in the United States.”
Another hate crime case in the Hate in America premiere centers on white supremacist Glenn Miller, who went on a shooting spree at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and a Jewish retirement center in April, 2014, killing Dr. William Corporon, his grandson Reat Underwood, and Terri LaManno. Underwood was at the Jewish Community Center with his grandfather to compete in a singing competition, and LaManno was visiting her mother at the retirement center. Ironically, none of those killed were Jewish, but in a shocking call with Tony Harris from prison in Hate in America, Miller remained unrepentant, calling his victims “accomplices of the Jews.”
After seeing Hate in America, it’s clear this powerful series sheds a pertinent light on current times as well as history. But lest you think Hate in America is only about victims of crime seeking justice,”The Klan on Trial” also illustrates the power of compassion and forgiveness in a very moving way.
Perhaps the most riveting part of the documentary are the interviews with the family of Donald, Corporon, Reat, and LaManno, who rose above their personal tragedies either through forgiveness and legally shutting down the largest hate group in America in Donald’s name, or in the case of Mindy Corporon, who lost her father and son, founding an organization to promote religious understanding and tolerance to fight all the hate with love.
Upcoming episodes of Hate in America include “Lone Wolves,” which explores the rise of “lone wolf” attackers, focusing on the anti-Semitic attack at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2009, the 2014 ambush of two police officers and a bystander by anti-government extremists in Las Vegas, and the 2015 white supremacist tragedy at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Hate in America will also explore the anti-government radicals in Flathead Valley, Montana.
Hate in America premieres Monday, February 29, at 8 p.m. ET on Investigation Discovery.
[Photo by Rogelio Solis/AP]