Some bigotry surfaces following presidential election

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By The Staff

ALBUQUERQUE – In the aftermath of Barack Obama’s historic victory, white supremacists rushed online to discussion forums to vent anger and disbelief that voters had chosen an African-American candidate as the next president of the United States.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which monitors and exposes extremist activity and rhetoric, states in a Nov. 10 release that anger among hate mongers and right-wing extremists in response to Obama’s victory resulted in an avalanche of caustic postings on racist websites.

At one point, the chatter overloaded the server of the most popular forum, Stormfront, and the site was temporarily shut down.

“We always expect a reaction from the bigots when events occur that they believe are contrary to their interests and worldview,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in the release. “While it’s clear that race didn’t matter to the vast majority of the American people in this election, race matters to racists.”

Foxman added that the amount of invective anger and rage being vented on white supremacist sites in the aftermath of the election is startling.

“Many racists are convinced that President-elect Obama’s achievement means that whites have lost their place in America, and they are predicting the beginning of a race war,” he said.

Well-known extremists, like former Klan leader David Duke, as well as anonymous individuals online blamed everyone from white “traitors” to Jews, minorities, and Republicans for bringing about this event and destroying their vision of a race-divided America.

While some racists announced that they would leave the United States, others suggested Obama’s election win would provide a catalyst to move whites to become active racists.

Some predict the election will prove a boon to racist recruitment efforts and others said they are planning on arming themselves with guns and ammunition to defend themselves in case of a possible race war.

Other white supremacists blame Jews, suggesting that Jews control the U.S. government and media and promote multiculturalism. They’re also saying Jews exercised control over the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party.

Despite death threats and threats against her family, Regional Director Susan M. Seligman of New Mexico’s Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has spent nearly two decades working against hate groups.

“I’ve had my house peppered with hate flyers, people have called and threatened my children - saying they wanted to kill me, and I’ve received hate mail and hate calls,” Seligman said.

Seligman is headquartered in Albuquerque and spends her time working with law enforcement, the legislature, elected officials, schools, the media and community groups in a pro-active effort to combat prejudice, discrimination and anti-Semitism throughout the state.

Following a number of significant arrests and internal strife beginning in 2002, just a couple of white supremacist/neo-Nazi groups remain solvent and growing, she said, adding that the skinhead movement is growing everywhere and that in New Mexico, the prison gangs have been most prevalent.

“White supremacist groups are very active in neighboring states including Texas and Arizona,” Seligman said. “That’s alway the concern - They may not be here today but that could change dramatically tomorrow.”

It’s easier for extremist groups to permeate their ideas nationally with social networks like Myspace and Facebook on the Internet, she said.

ADL-New Mexico was established in 1989. Los Alamos resident Jeri B. Hertzman chairs the 30-member board of directors comprised of individuals from Los Alamos, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Carlsbad.

Noted as one of the most effective civil rights and human relations organizations in the state, ADL helped pass New Mexico's hate crimes bill into law and directed an effort to remove a former Nazi doctor linked to horrific crimes at Dachau from the New Mexico Space Museum’s International Hall of Fame.

FBI agents in training visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., where they undergo a program set up by the ADL. Archivists recount stories and anecdotes about police officer actions during the Holocaust.

Very few exercised moral courage under those horrific circumstances, particularly in the early months of 1933. Most followed orders, which led to unspeakable crimes against humanity.

As one of the state’s experts on domestic terrorist groups, Seligman trains law enforcement throughout New Mexico on extremist issues. She also was very involved in the nine-year effort to pass a hate crimes bill in the New Mexico Legislature.

“When you think of extremist groups – you think of their hatred of Jews, Blacks, Asians and Hispanics - any nonwhites,” Seligman said. “Immigration is a new buzz word for hate groups and one of the concerns surrounding Obama is ‘will there be an opening of the flood gates of ‘brown people’ into our country’?”

FBI statistics show crimes against immigrants spiked last year, she said. “We're seeing a lot of problems in the schools with kids taunting Mexican immigrants so we recently conducted diversity training for teachers,” Seligman said.

She taught the program in the broader sense by providing speakers who were from Lithuania, Germany and Viet Nam.

Seligman encourages teachers to share John F. Kennedy's essay, “A Nation of Immigrants” with their students. It's as relevant today as it was 50 years ago, she said, and why the ADL and publisher Harper Perennial have reissued this landmark essay detailing the contributions of immigrants to American society.

Seligman has received many honors for her work with the ADL, including the Governor’s Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women, the City of Albuquerque’s Human Rights Award, the Trailblazer Award from the New Mexico Commission on the Status of Women and the Golda Meir award from the Israeli Bonds organization.

“Sadly, hatred, bigotry and discrimination are an unfortunate part of our society,” Seligman said. “Hopefully, rather than concentrating on hate we can focus on learning about each other and rejoicing in our differences and in the rich fabric of our society.”

For information, access www.adl.org.