The “Nazis, Go Home” slogan written on the sidewalk instantly caught my attention. I was visiting Knoxville, Tennessee in August 2010 for my friend from college’s wedding. I had taken the afternoon before the ceremony to explore the city. However, when I saw signs and graffiti depicting Adolf Hitler and the swastika, I knew I was going to have a very different afternoon than the one I had planned. I had envisioned an afternoon of taking in Knoxville’s tourist attractions and chatting with my best friend, whom I hadn’t seen in several years. However, after viewing those disturbing signs, feelings of fear, uncertainty and curiosity set in. I wanted to know more: Why did Knoxville have to post signs telling Nazis to go home? What was going on? Was I in danger? Who exactly is responsible for posting these slogans? Through further investigation, I found out that a rally had been planned for that afternoon by the National Socialist Movement (NSM). The NSM had gathered around 50 members that were protesting illegal immigration and supporting Arizona laws that perpetuate racial profiling, make a failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police wider powers to hold individuals who are suspected of illegal immigration.
The NSM is a part of the Neo-Nazi Party and was started in the United States in 1974. They advocate a society composed only of white Christian individuals. Their core values consist of, “defending the rights of white people everywhere, reform illegal immigration policies, promotion of white separation and preservation of our European culture and heritage.” Members of the Neo-Nazi party have been known to harass Jews, homosexuals, African-Americans, Latinos and other minorities. The NSM has over 50 chapters across the United States, including a chapter in Philadelphia.
This demonstration is an extreme form of bullying. This ethnic and religious hate bullying has incited a race riot in Toledo, Ohio. In 2006, an NSM member was convicted of manslaughter after beating and stabbing a Mexican-American man to death with a Nazi dagger while wearing a storm trooper uniform. Other NSM members have been charged with assault, battery, disorderly conduct, malicious intimidation and harassment against minorities. Although the demonstration that I attended did not become violent, two NSM members were arrested for carrying weapons with the intent to go armed. Luckily the guns were confiscated by police before the skinheads had a chance to use them.
Whilst it was upsetting and disturbing to see individuals who are perpetuating hate, I was at the same time reassured by the number of anti-Nazi protestors who were in attendance. There were over 100 counter-protesters, who opposed the NSM’s messages of intolerance and hate. One counter-protester stated, “I could not imagine standing by while the Klan and the Nazis come to my town spouting hate.”
- Join the Southern Poverty Law Center and other organizations that promote cultural exchange, understanding and tolerance. You might be able to help your community.
- Travel and attend multi-cultural events where you can learn about other cultures. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. You might enjoy it!
- Make an effort to meet individuals who are from a different background and culture. You might make new friends.
- Do not tolerate racist or off-color jokes.
- Watch documentaries; listen to radio stations and read books and magazines about different groups. You might learn something new.