After Obama's win, white backlash festers in US
The election of a black president triggered at least 200 hate-related incidents, a watchdog group finds.
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But postelection, at least two white nationalist websites – Stormfront and the Council of Conservative Citizens – report their servers have crashed because of heavy traffic. The League of the South, a secessionist group, says Web hits jumped from 50,000 a month to 300,000 since Nov. 4, and its phones are ringing off the hook.Skip to next paragraph
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"The vitriol is flailing out shotgun-style," says Mr. Levin. "They recognize Obama as a tipping point, the perfect storm in the narrative of the hate world – the apocalypse that they've been moaning about has come true."
Supremacist propaganda is already on the upswing. In Oklahoma, fringe groups have distributed anti-Obama propaganda through newspapers and taped it to home mail boxes. Ugly incidents such as cross-burnings, assassination betting pools, and Obama effigies are also being reported from Maine to Alabama.
The Ku Klux Klan has been tied to recent news events, as well. Two Tennessee men implicated for plotting to kill 88 black men, including Obama, were tied to the KKK chapter whose leader was convicted in a civil trial in Brandenburg, Ky., last week, for inciting violence. The murder last week in Louisiana of a KKK initiate, allegedly killed after trying to back out of joining, came at the hands of a new group called Sons of Dixie, authorities say.
"We're not looking at a race war or anything close to it, but ... what we are seeing now is undeniably a fairly major backlash by some subset of the white population," says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report in Montomgery, Ala. "Many whites feel that the country their forefathers built has been ... stolen from them, so there's in some places a real boiling rage, and that can only become worse as more people lose jobs."
In an election in which barely 20 percent of native Southern whites in Deep South states voted for Obama, the newly apparent political clout of "outsiders" and people of color has been unnerving to some.
"In states like Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama, there was extraordinary racial polarization in the vote," says Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta. "Black Americans really do believe that Obama is going to represent their interests and views in ways that they haven't been before, and, in the Deep South, whites feel exactly the opposite."
But for nonviolent secessionist groups like the League of the South, the hope is for a more vigorous debate about the direction of the US and the South's role in it, says Michael Tuggle, a League blogger in North Carolina.
Mr. Tuggle says his group isn't looking for an 1860-style secession but, rather, a model that Spain, for one, is moving toward, in which "there's a great deal of autonomy for constituent regions" – a foil to what is seen as unchecked, dangerous federal power in Washington.
"To a lot of people, the idea of secession doesn't seem so crazy anymore," says Tuggle. "People are talking about how left out they feel, ... and they feel that something strange and radical has taken over our country."