How do we reconcile recent reports that a) the number of extremist groups active in the U.S.–especially anti-Muslim groups–is growing, and b) Americans feel distinctly more warmly toward Muslims than they did three years ago?
The number of organized anti-Muslim groups has almost tripled, from 34 in 2015 to 101 in 2016, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Yet, Pew Research reports that Americans’ perceptions of Muslims now rate 48 on a “feelings thermometer,” up from 40 three years ago.
The source of both developments can be traced in part to historic changes in the complexion of U.S. inhabitants. Through both immigration and higher birth rates than those of the white population, minorities are quickly changing our demographic makeup to one with no racial majority.
At the same time, minority families are moving from “gateway” cities like Miami and New York into the heartland. Xenophobic feelings may be triggered with increased exposure to minorities, which undoubtedly plays a role in the rise in hate crimes against them, which is only getting worse with post-election rhetoric and the immigration ban.
The Southern Poverty Law Center report mentioned above only tracked groups that engage in activities in the real world, like passing out leaflets, holding rallies or distributing membership cards. But it warned that such an approach could play down the true reach of extremism, as many extremists operate primarily on social media and other online forums. Last week, I blogged on another of our societal trends, “Social Warfare,” which centers on homophily, the influence of which is certainly exacerbating the increasing menace to minorities.
But, diversity close to home also provides opportunity for bonding. Pew reports that people felt more warmly toward a religious group when they personally knew someone in that group, and more Americans today say they know a Muslim (45%) than did so in 2014 (38%)– the highest increase for any religious group. Look at how pointedly Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl ad reflects diversity against a backdrop of spacious skies.
We are tracking the nature and impact of these responses to our country's growing diversity in the societal trend we call “Minorities On The Move” as part of our 2017 top trends reporting. Stay on top of trends by subscribing to our blog.