The Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the country's leading racial justice nonprofits, classified White Lives Matter as a hate group this week, according to the criteria it uses to designate such organizations. The SPLC defines hate groups as "those that vilify entire groups of people based on immutable characteristics such as race or ethnicity," which almost directly matches the federal government's language for hate group classification.
The classification comes a few weeks after one chapter of the group protested outside the NAACP headquarters in Houston, Texas with armed rifles and Confederate flags. Those protesters claimed to reporters and onlookers that their flags were not hate symbols, but markers of their heritage. "It has nothing to do with racism on our part," White Lives Matter member Ken Reed told The Houston Chronicle. "We're proud to be Southern. It has all to do about heritage, nothing to do with hate."
However, those assurances didn't dissuade the SPLC, which sees the situation as pretty cut-and-dry, according to one of the center's top administrators. "The White Lives Matter website says their movement is dedicated to the preservation of the white race. That tells you all you need to know,” Heidi Beirich, the director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, told The New York Times. “They’re against integration, immigration. This is standard white supremacist stuff.”
The group's mission statement, listed on its website, supports Beirich's assessment of the group's dedication to white supremacy. "White genocide is a phenomenon where mass third world immigration, integration by force, and 24/7 race mixing propaganda are being promoted in all and only white countries to deliberately turn them non-white," the site's homepage reads. "To add insult to injury westerners are being forced to subsidize their non-working invaders through taxation and welfare."
One of the primary reasons that WLM was designated a hate group is due to the affiliations of its key leadership. Rebecca Barnette, a known white supremacist from Tennessee, is a leader in both the the Aryan Strikeforce and the National Socialist Movement, two of the United States' most prominent neo-Nazi groups. According to the SLPC, she also runs both the WLM Facebook page and the website, as The Washington Post reported this week.
WLM will now join the list of 998 active hate groups that the SPLC tracked in 2015, which represented a 14-percent increase in activity over the previous year. In addition, the center lists 47 groups on its website as extremist organizations, which includes the Aryan Brotherhood, the Westboro Baptist Church, and the Family Research Council.
The designation of WLM as a hate group is unlikely to have a significant impact on the most mainstream argument surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and its primary opposition. Whereas the WLM group is a more extreme version, people still say "all lives matter" as a more casual defense against the tenants of BLM. Still, WLM's new status as a hate group furthers the recent steps towards racial equality by disavowing the ultra-conservative movement as racism. As many have been apt to point out on social media, the distinction between White Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter is that BLM wants equality, while WLM seeks dominance.