Hate groups continue to increase in numbers throughout the United States, and much time has been devoted to figuring out what is spurring them on. While many obvious factors have been explored, such as unemployment, crime and environmental issues, one unusual variable has come to the forefront: large retail establishments, like Wal-Mart.
First off, it is important to note that these supercenters are not being identified as the cause of hate groups. Research simply shows that there is a correlation between the two. Hate groups are more likely to form when there is a superstore nearby. This may be due, in part, to the fact that stores like these change the nature of the local economy and threaten smaller businesses. All these factors have an impact on whether or not a hate group is able to establish a presence in the area.
A Penn State study found that one of the most important variables regarding whether or not there was a hate group in a particular area was the number of supercenters located there. It is important to keep in mind that this was just one study and additional research needs to be completed before strong conclusions are drawn. It is not even clear why this correlation exists, although the Penn State researchers did take it upon themselves to hypothesize a bit about the phenomenon. One of their theories is that these large retail establishments create a situation where people socialize with one another less and less. As a result, the members of the community just don’t know each other as well, and it creates a situation where hate groups have the ability to form and even flourish.
It is no secret that establishments like Wal-Mart and Target make it difficult for other stores to do business. This happens not just in the superstore’s city or town, but also in many of the areas that surround it. When businesses are threatened, from Mom and Pop grocery stores to local pest control companies, so is the livelihood of many families; as a result, hate groups often form out of desperation and anger. In many cases, the hate groups are not aware that these large retailers are a factor in their misfortune. They may rail against unsuspecting establishments in their area while still patronizing the superstore.
One thing that is not in question is whether or not these large retail establishments are trying to spur on this activity. It seems unlikely that they even knew such a correlation existed, so to assign blame to them would be unfair. The fact remains, however, that this is an issue that needs to be explored, and these superstores should take it upon themselves to invest more in the communities where they are located.
Image credit: Mike Mozart, courtesy flickr