A new report on hate groups in the United States detailed an increase in the number of white nationalist groups even as the overall number of hate groups declined slightly in 2019.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) report, titled, Year in Hate and Extremism, documents 155 active white nationalist hate groups, a 55 percent increase in such groups over 2018.
Overall, the number of hate groups fell to 940 in 2019, down from a record high of 1,020 in 2018. Over half of this decline "was due to a drop in the number of neo-Nazi groups, as two main factions collapsed", the SPLC said.
The SPLC is a nonprofit organisation that advocates for civil rights, particularly of minority groups. The organisation defines a hate group as any whose "statements or principles … or practices" endeavour to "attack or malign an entire group of people".
Brooks noted that the administration of US President Donald Trump has encouraged far-right hate groups since his 2016 campaign for president "energised whited nationalists".
The total number of hate groups rose to 1,020 in 2018, up about 7 percent from 2017. White nationalist groups grew by nearly 50 percent in 2018, from 100 chapters in 2017 to 148 in 2018, the SPLC said in its previous report.
While the overall numbers dropped in 2019, there "are other indicators that show hate is still a great problem in this country", Brooks said.
Brooks said that many are organising online "instead of joining formal hate groups … they're using the internet to network, fundraise and recruit."
With the spread of the coronavirus, many have noted an increase in attacks against Asians.
Eric Ward, executive director of the Western States Center, a rights groups based in the US Pacific Northwest noted an increase in white nationalist rhetoric in regard to the coronavirus "linking [Asians] to the coronavirus pandemic".
Ward said the US could "fully anticipate a rise in anti-Asian violence" as the coronavirus crisis continues.
Trump and his administration have come under fire for repeatedly calling the novel coronavirus the "Chinese virus". Trump has increasingly targeted China, noting that the virus was first reported in the city of Wuhan in 2019.
Critics have accused Trump of fuelling bigotry and putting Asian Americans in harm's way with his rhetoric.