Human rights leaders are warning that attacks such as that on two New Zealand mosques last week are the result of xenophobic, ethno-nationalistic and anti-immigrant sentiments on the rise around the globe — and those feelings are centered in the United States, they say.
The internet and social media have provided means for such ideology to grow beyond the bounds of small, isolated groups and allowed a “small but vocal group of Americans who have sought to craft a narrative that white racial identity is in danger,” experts told USA Today.
“The United States is the epicenter of the world in terms of how white identity is seen,” Karam Dana, a professor of Middle East politics and director of the American Muslim Research Institute at the University of Washington Bothell outside Seattle, told the publication.
The U.S. experienced an increase in racial violence itself in 2018, which saw domestic extremists kill at least 50 people, making it the fourth deadliest year for such deaths since 1970, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The majority of those attacks were at the hands of white supremacists, the organization said.
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said white supremacy today “is an international threat that knows no borders, being exported and globalized like never before.”
“The hatred that led to violence in Pittsburgh and Charlottesville is finding new adherents around the world," he said. “Indeed, it appears that this attack was not just focused on New Zealand; it was intended to have a global impact.”
The New Zealand attacker wrote in his 74-page manifesto that his goals were global in nature, referencing the United States, the Second Amendment and his desire that “conflicts over firearms would eventually lead to the United States splitting along political, cultural and racial lines,” USA Today noted.
Further, the alleged gunman spoke of President Donald Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity” and referenced other conservative American political figures, including Candace Owen of Turning Point USA, a conservative youth group.
E. Tendayi Achiume, a U.N. special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, has gathered data revealing that anti-immigrant and ethno-nationalistic actions have been on the rise in the West over the past four years, beginning in 2015 with refugees fleeing war-torn Syria and other places causing concern in Europe and the U.S.
Such concerns are worsened by “rowing economic anxiety, rising inequality and narratives that tell whites those problems are driven by immigrants and people of color. Another often-cited statistic is that the United States will cease to be majority white within several decades.”
The global white nationalist movement is coming into its own, said Eric Ward, executive director of the Western States Center in Portland, Oregon, and “increasingly appears to be taking its inspiration from attackers in the U.S.”
The extremist ideology is floated among the alt-right in the U.S., on websites where “racial epithets and statements disparaging Hispanics, women, Muslims, African-Americans and Jewish people run rampant,” USA Today said.
And the president is not held blameless by many experts tracking white nationalism’s rise:
New York University communications professor Helio Fred Garcia said the language used by candidate and now President Trump has had a direct effect on inspiring people to commit acts of violence. Trump has also called Mexicans rapists and suggested there were "people that were very fine people, on both sides," in Charlottesville, where white nationalists carried Nazi flags and chanted "Jews will not replace us."
“We are seeing a growing number of people who are never on any terrorist watchlist suddenly commit these acts, and they often directly use language that has been a staple of the president’s rhetoric, such as calling immigrants ‘invaders,’” Garcia says.
Trump and his administration officials have disputed the notion that the president is in any way to blame for rising anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments or extremist ideology, though Trump said last week that he does not believe white nationalist violence is a significant concern.