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Chairman Nadler Opening Statement for the Hearing on Hate Crimes and the Rise of White Nationalism

Washington, April 9, 2019

Washington, D.C. –Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks for the hearing on hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism:

“Today, the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing that I wish we did not have to conduct, but which is sadly necessary, to examine an urgent crisis in our country.  We will consider issues relating to hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism.  This topic goes to the heart of our country’s longstanding struggle to carry out what the Preamble to our Constitution says it is designed to do—to form ‘a more perfect union.’ 

“Hate incidents target victims based on their actual or perceived race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or other immutable characteristics.  Some of these incidents may be crimes, and some are not, but all of them harm not only individuals but also our communities and, ultimately, our entire nation.  Unfortunately, various statistics confirm what most of us have observed—that hate incidents are increasing in the United States.

“Although reporting of hate crimes to the FBI by the states is woefully incomplete, what we do know is that these statistics have been on the rise in recent years, with hate crimes surging 20 percent last year, and a plurality of these crimes—29 percent—being motivated by anti-black bias.

“The American public can sense this reality.  A poll conducted by the Communities Against Hate initiative showed that 84 percent of individuals believe that hate incidents are very, or somewhat, prevalent in this country, and that 66 percent believe that such incidents or expressions of hate are getting worse. 

“This increase has occurred during a disturbing rise of white nationalism in our country, and across the Globe.  The deadly 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia served as a frightening reminder of the threat white nationalism and hate groups pose to the United States.  In just the last few years, the ideology of white supremacy has inspired terrorist attacks on all the Abrahamic religions: in 2015, nine worshipers were murdered at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston; in 2018, eleven people were killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; and this year, fifty people were slaughtered at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“In each case, the perpetrators were motivated by a belief that people perceived to be non-white—whether they be African Americans, Jews, Muslims, or members of other minority groups—were plotting to undermine the white race as part of a Great Replacement, the same idea that motivated the 2011 Norwegian attacks on a Workers’ Youth League summer camp, which cost 77 lives, and the attack on a Sikh temple in Milwaukee that cost six lives.

“In the age of instant communication with worldwide reach, white nationalist groups target communities of color and religious minorities through social media platforms, some of which are well known to all Americans, and some of which operate in hidden corners of the web.  These platforms are utilized as conduits to spread vitriolic hate messages into every home and country.  Efforts by media companies to counter this surge have fallen short, and social network platforms continue to be used as ready avenues to spread dangerous white nationalist speech.  As the New Zealand attack showed, some hateful ideological rhetoric that originates in the United States is now used to inspire terror worldwide. 

“Unfortunately, in a time when decisive leadership is needed, the President’s rhetoric fans the flames with language that—whether intentional or not—may motivate and embolden white supremacist movements.  We only need to look at the perpetrators of violence and hate to see the impact this rhetoric has had.  For example, the New Zealand shooter declared that he supports President Trump “as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

“Congress, in recent years, has also failed to take seriously the threat that white nationalism and hate crimes pose.  Last Congress, we did not even hold hearings after the Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally or after the Tree of Life shooting.  And now, we see witnesses invited by the Minority who openly associate with purveyors of hate.

“White nationalism and its proliferation online have real consequences.  Americans have died because of it.  I did not call this hearing so that some may promote the very messages that we need to combat.  We must, together, rebuke those who seek to divide us through a message of hate.

“Although we will examine the federal government’s response in more detail in the future, I will say now that it appears that federal law enforcement agencies have not taken the deadly and increasing dangers posed by white nationalist hate groups as seriously as foreign terrorist threats. 

“The Center for Investigative Reporting analyzed incidents of domestic terrorism occurring from January 2008 to December 2016.  It found that there were nearly twice as many attacks perpetrated, or attempted, by right-wing extremists (115) compared to those identified as Islamist domestic terrorism (63).  The report also concluded that right-wing extremist attacks were more often deadly.  Although the total number of deaths associated with Islamist incidents was higher (90), this is largely due to the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood in Texas, which alone resulted in 13 deaths.  In fact, only 13 percent of Islamist cases caused fatalities. By contrast, nearly a third of attacks committed by right-wing extremists involved fatalities (79 deaths).

“These figures highlight the risks we face if we ignore the threats posed by white nationalist movements.  To help us better understand the nature of these threats to our communities, and the ways in which social media has been used to spread hate and incite violence, we have a diverse panel of witnesses before us today.  I trust that our frank discussion of these issues will help the Committee, and the public, better understand the challenges we face, and how we may best respond.”

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