White supremacist symbols, like the one, often incorporate Confederate flags
This writing was seized while investigating a racially motivated attack:
"What will it take for our fellow white men, women, and children to wake up to the fact that our culture and race is becoming more extinct with each passing year? I wonder what one is thinking when he or she taints their blood with the blood of another race? Have we done so many cruel things to these other races that our own people want to turn their backs on the white race by giving birth to another race, without having any thought of what it is doing to the white race?"
This is the first paragraph from a document titled Mighty White Skinheads-White Pride. The case involved a group of Skinheads attacking a Japanese-American and two white Americans. The crime? The white Americans were considered "race traitors" because they were associating with a person who was not white.
Skinheads and their sympathizers are computer literate and often spread their propaganda on the Web.
Is it illegal to have such thoughts? How about having them in written form and passing copies around? The answer, of course, is no. However, having these kinds of thoughts and acting on them or using them to motivate violent actions could be illegal.
Racism is founded on the belief that a particular race is the chosen race; that all other races are inferior in some way to that race. In America, when one refers to racism, most people think about white racism. Although other types of racism certainly exist, we will focus on this pervasive form of bigotry often called 'white supremacy.'
It Takes All Kinds
White supremacist groups can take many different forms. The Skinheads are street gangs, named for their shaved heads they use as an identifier. The Aryan Brotherhood exists as a gang in many prisons across the country. There are also many white sympathizers who may not officially belong to a white supremacist group, but who hold and support the same beliefs.
White supremacist "gangs" have been around in the Unites States since the Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1866. Of the many white supremacist groups in the United States today, two of the most well known are the Skinheads and the KKK. These two groups stand out because of the criminal activity that has been associated with them. But there are an amazing number of other groups such as the American Nazi party, Aryan Nations, the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, the Minutemen, the National Alliance, the Order, and the Posse Comitatus that have all been associated with racist attitudes and beliefs. You might be surprised at the people who subscribe to this belief system.
White supremacist gangs often worship the Nazis as heroes and adopt Nazi symbols as their own.
I have a police officer friend who was brought up in a racist home, in a racist town. In fact, my friend did not even realize he was a racist until he entered the Army. He quickly recognized that his beliefs probably weren't mainstream. He is now employed as a police officer in the Northwest and hasn't given up his racist beliefs. He told me candidly, "When I realized what I was, I didn't like myself, but I didn't know I was racist. It was the way I was brought up and I thought my beliefs were supposed to be that way."
Racists come from all walks of life, from all economic backgrounds, and from all types of professions. I have even encountered a few mixed race youths who denounce their minority heritage and claim allegiance to the white race in order to claim membership in a Skinhead gang. Racists can be male or female. They can be of any age.
Not all racists are violent, just like not all gang members are violent. But just like the street gang sub-culture, violence can be part of the racist mentality. Being a racist, is not illegal, but committing crimes based on a racist belief system is.
The violence associated with racism is usually directed at minorities, Jews, homosexuals, whites who are considered race traitors, and those who are believed to be working with or in the government, sometimes referred to as ZOG (Zionist Occupied Government). There is a distrust of the police because the police are an extended part of the government.
The “88” in the tattoo above is “HH” or “Heil Hitler.”
Any crime that is motivated by a racist philosophy or belief can be considered a bias crime, more commonly known as a hate crime. So a crime that is motivated by the victim's gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, race, or ethnicity may be a hate crime. Such crimes would include gay bashing, desecration of a Jewish synagogue, or attacks against minorities because of their ethnicity.
Although sporting any old tattoo doesn't mean someone is a racist or a member of a white supremacist group, there are specific types of tattoos that white racists tend to wear because of their particular significance to the movement. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement are often associated with racism. Some members of racist groups openly sport tattoos of Adolf Hilter, a swastika, a Celtic cross, lightning bolts, runic alphabet characters, or an eagle atop a swastika (the symbol of the Third Reich).
Just as in graffiti, numbers in a tattoo usually mean more than just the characters themselves. Examples of numbers used symbolically by white supremacists include the numbers 88 (eighth letter, HH, or Heil Hilter), 14 (the fourteen words, "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."), 311 (the 11th letter is K and three times it equals KKK), 666 (said to be Satan's number), 777 (said to be God's number), 83 (the eighth letter is H and the third is C; Heil Christ), 100% or 100% wood (signifying purity of race), 4/19 (the date of the Waco, Texas, assault and the day of the Oklahoma City bombing), 4/20 (Adolf Hilter's birthday and also a time to smoke marijuana, in reference to proportions used to make the drug), and the number 5 (represents the expression, "I have nothing to say," a phrase used by San Diego-based white supremacist Alex Curtis to demonstrate the code of silence).
The clover leaf is the symbol of the Aryan Brotherhood.
Other symbols used to represent white supremacy include a skull and crossbones, boot symbols, SWP (supreme white power), WP (white power), a skinhead being crucified, OI (a skinhead greeting and older type of skinhead music), the Confederate flag, characters being attacked, peckerwood (a reference to being white), and RAHOWA (racial holy war). Tattoos of Vikings, convicted murderer Charles Manson, and Italian fascist Benito Mussolini are also commonly seen. The clover leaf is a symbol that is often used by racists to symbolize the white race. The Aryan Brotherhood prison gang uses this symbol.
While tattoos can be one signal of association with a racist group, the type of music one listens to can be another. Music can be used as propaganda, much the way Adolf Hitler's Nazi party did in Germany.
Racist music is popular among many believers. As one racist said in a TV interview, "the music can really pump you up." If you think about it, music can be a great propaganda tool because it can be so appealing to young people. Much like certain types of music can be used to spread the Hispanic, African-American, and tagger gang mentality, white supremacist groups welcome new members sometimes unconsciously recruited through music that puts forth a white supremacist message.
Again, simply owning or listening to music with a racist message is not a crime in itself. But someone who listens to racist music might share the same beliefs.
Written materials may also give a hint to the type of person you are dealing with. The white racist movement floods its believers with written materials. Flyers outlining the white supremacist theme are used for recruitment. These flyers can also be used to terrorize a minority group within a community.
White supremacist gangs love tattoos, especially tattoos with Nazi symbols and perverted Christian symbols like the crucified skinhead.
Personal notes and journals are commonly found during criminal investigations. Racist books like "The Turner Diaries" and "The Hunter," both written by William L. Pierce using the pseudonym "Andrew Macdonald," are often linked to the racist movement. These materials have been known to motivate some racists' criminal actions and can certainly give an investigator insight into a subject's mind.
Don't forget to also check computers when looking for written racist material. Computer written personal diaries are quite common now. Written materials of all kinds can be powerful tools for spreading the white supremacist's message. And the Internet is a relatively new way to spread the word of racism and violence.
As the public in general becomes more computer literate, so do gang members. And white supremacist groups tend to make more extensive use of the Internet than most street gangs. They use this medium to spread their message, to recruit, and to plan criminal activities.
Just run any search engine you like and you will find hundreds of sites devoted to white supremacy and "white pride." Some examples include Stormfront, Skinhead USA, WAR, and Skin-Net. These sites often offer a variety of messages aimed at spreading racist philosophies. Some sites even have short music clips that the viewer can listen to. These sites usually provide links to other racist Internet sites. These sites, while intended for white supremacists, can be great resources for the police officer looking to better understand racist philosophies and the groups that spread them.
E-mail is also used to plan crime, socialize and to recruit new members. The electronic turf of the Internet can offer some form of safety and privacy for today's racist.
One cannot talk about the white supremacy movement without mentioning women's role in it. Separate female racist groups have emerged to work with their male counterparts. However, these groups still see themselves as secondary to the male white supremacist groups. Male dominance is often tied to white supremacy. In fact, the Ku Klux Klan is said to have started because Southern men felt a need to protect white women from men of other races, notably blacks, after the Civil War.
One group of female white supremacists is known as the "Featherwoods." The role of the female in the white supremacist movement is described in this poem about the Featherwoods written by an unknown Skinhead:
"Featherwoods are the ladies of the Peckerwood breed,
Standing at her Wood's side, giving him whatever he needs.
It's not something every girl wants or can become overnight,
And to be one you must be 100% white.
You see, your Peckerwood may need you in the middle of the night.
It may not be to love him, but join in
Understanding the white supremacist movement in all its guises is the best way to track its members and convict them of the crimes they commit. While it is impossible to identify all violent racists and racist groups, resources abound.
You might be able to talk with a Skinhead or a known racist on the streets. Many are willing to talk about their beliefs in an effort to spread the word and "enlighten" others.
There are several watchdog organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League that track the size and activities of these groups. They are a good resource for law enforcement. Racism, while not a crime in itself, can fuel criminal activity. A single hate crime can affect an entire minority population. It's our job, as cops, to keep this from happening whenever possible.
Al Valdez is an investigator with the Orange County (Calif.) District Attorney's Office and author of the book, "Gangs."