The violence in Charlottesville, VA this weekend certainly opened the eyes of many people across the country to the hatred and racism that still exists in America. For many, this has been a very confusing and distressing time, and a lot of people are probably wondering exactly what all of this hatred means and who exactly is spreading it. Unfortunately, it comes from a lot of different groups, and each of them are slightly different in their history and goals. So are Nazis and the KKK the same thing? Both groups promote violence against minorities, but they do ultimately have their own unique qualities.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that monitors hate groups, the KKK, which stands for Ku Klux Klan, is one of the oldest American hate groups. Originally founded in 1865 during Reconstruction at the end of the U.S. Civil War, the primary goal of the group was to intimidate Southern blacks through bombings, murders, and other forms of violence.
While the KKK's prominence has largely subsided since then after internal conflicts and damning court cases, the SPLC estimates that the organization still has an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 members nationwide.
Neo-Nazis, on the other hand, "share a hatred for Jews and a love for Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany," according to the SPLC. Like the KKK, the group also has hatred for other minority groups, but its ultimate worldview is that most social, political, and economic problems can be traced back to people of Jewish descent.
Nazism originated in Europe, and primarily believes that racial hierarchy and Social Darwinism make ethnically white individuals superior to all other groups. The organization also has radical political views, and, according to the SPLC, aims for the creation of a fascist political state.
While the KKK can best be described as an organization, or a group of organizations, Nazism is best described as an ideology. There are a number of neo-Nazi groups that currently operate in the United States, like the National Vanguard and the National Alliance.
Ultimately, the differences between these two groups aren't all that important. Both groups spread hate, promote violence, intimidate minorities, and have yet to be fully, convincingly repudiated by President Trump. But understanding the history and political goals of these groups could be a valuable start in best determining how to address them, and how to ensure that their agenda ultimately does not succeed.