More White Extremist Propaganda Appearing at US Colleges

20 July, 2019

Signs, fliers and other notices with racist language are increasingly being found at colleges and universities in the United States, a new report finds.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported recently that examples of white supremacist propaganda on U.S. college campuses rose during the most recent school year.

The ADL watches hate groups, including those who believe that white people are better than members of other races. The group says its aim is to secure justice and fair treatment for all people. It adds that white supremacist propaganda on campuses has increased in each of the past two years.

The report noted a sharp increase in documented cases in the 2017-2018 school year. Examples included white supremacist fliers, stickers and other material.

More extremist propaganda was found during the spring term of 2019 than any term in the past, the ADL said. There were 161 incidents on 122 different college and university campuses across 33 states, and in Washington, D.C. The report documented 313 cases of white supremacist propaganda on U.S. campuses between September 2018 and the end of May 2019.

The cases were tied to organizations linked to what has become known as the alternative right, or "alt-right," movement. The ADL says the term "alt-right" is used to describe extremists who reject traditional conservative thinking. They instead support forms of conservatism that express support of racism or white supremacy.

The 2017-2018 total marked a 77% increase from the year before.

Lynn Pasquerella is President of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. She says their members are concerned about increasing signs of white supremacists.

"There is a rise of white nationalism, racist propaganda on college and university campuses across the country, and around the world. We're seeing growing concern on the part of college administrators about the type of rhetoric that challenges institutional commitment to equity and social justice."

Flier promoting White Supremacy at California Polytechnic State University, Obtained by ADL May 2019
Flier promoting White Supremacy at California Polytechnic State University, Obtained by ADL May 2019

Examples of white supremacist propaganda also increased in non-college settings, the ADL said, with 672 examples in the first five months of this year.

Jonathan Greenblatt is the ADL's chief executive officer. He said the recent increase on college campuses shows a greater effort within hate groups to expand. Greenblatt said their leaders are hoping to influence young, easily-influenced minds. The overall increase shows a political climate where white supremacist propaganda is increasingly accepted, he added.

White supremacist groups are using social media to push their message to the public. They have gained a level of influence in the political discussions not seen in many years, Greenblatt said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center closely follows hate groups and extremists. It confirms that the number of hate messages on and off U.S. college campuses has risen in recent years.

Heidi Beirich is director of the center's intelligence project.

Beirich told VOA she thinks white nationalist and alt-right groups are increasing their messages on social media and campuses to get more members and publicity.

The propaganda attacks minorities, including non-whites, Jews, Muslims and immigrants. Some messages included links to websites that contain white supremacist information.

It is not clear how successful these messages are in recruiting new members. But Beirich says that hate groups are reaching out to students on U.S. college campuses.

"And so I'm sure they have picked up some folks, young white men, as I've said, who maybe have been reading hate material online anyways, who have frustrations about the environment on campus, maybe it is too liberal for their taste, and who might decide to call somebody up like this. And you know, there is no shortage of people with higher degrees in this movement."

She also says that hate groups support some of the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump.

"What they liked about Donald Trump was not his entire message, but they like the idea of a Muslim ban. They like the anti-immigrant policies that Trump advocated in the campaign, and now has been involved in with things like ICE [US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency] raids and building the wall, and the fact that this is happening from the highest levels of the government energizes this movement."

In 2017, President Trump was criticized for failing to condemn white supremacists by name immediately after violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia. A group of white supremacists clashed with opponents during a protest.

Days later, Trump said that there were some "very fine people on both sides" and that neo-Nazis and white nationalists involved "should be condemned totally."

Lynn Pasquerella agrees that the national political rhetoric is adding to the problem. She says that white nationalists are partly acting out of fear of losing their jobs to immigrants.

In the 2018-2019 academic year, California had the highest number of on-campus white supremacist propaganda examples: a total of 58. The ADL said that was followed by Kentucky with 22 and Oklahoma with 19.

Pasquerella says this propaganda is coming from outside college campuses. Now, she says, it is up to college leaders to get involved in the public debate, and to help promote understanding and education.

I'm Anne Ball.

Anne Ball wrote this story for Learning English with information from the Associated Press. George Grow was the editor.

What do you think of this story? Write to us in the comments section below.


Words in This Story

campus – n. the area and buildings around a university, college or school

alternative - adj. existing or functioning outside of the established society

rhetoric - n. language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable

institutional - adj. in relation to an established organization

engage – v. to do (something)

frustration – n. a feeling of anger or annoyance caused by being unable to do something : the state of being frustrated

higher degree – n. an education degree above a high school diploma

neo-Nazi – n. a person who belongs to a group that believes in the ideas and policies of Hitler's Nazis and that sometimes commits violent acts