Hate appears to be growing across the United States, a violent and visible change the Southern Poverty Law Center has called "the Trump Effect." The Republican nominee has given racism and xenophobia a national audience, helping white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the alt-right movement carry their messages of hate and brutality from private gatherings to the mainstream.
This alarming growth of intolerance is captured and explored in the new documentary “Hate Rising,” a film reported by Univision and Fusion anchor Jorge Ramos and directed by Catherine Tambini.
In the film, the Mexican-American journalist speaks with neo-Nazis, members of the KKK and leaders of the alt-right, who all fear becoming a minority as racial and ethnic demographics continue to shift in the U.S., as well as survivors of high-profile acts of racist, xenophobic and anti-Islam violence.
Ramos, 58, talked with us about “Hate Rising,” which premieres on Univision in Spanish and Fusion in English on Sunday, October 23 at 10 p.m.
Why did you want to create this documentary and why was this the right moment?
The moment, that’s no surprise to anyone, it’s the election. This is the most important election in generations. We have to decide what kind of country we want to be: one that’s open to immigration or one that excludes minority groups. We have to know that there’s a growth of hate, that there are more hate groups in this country since Donald Trump’s announcement, that the number of groups linked to the KKK have grown from 72 in 2014 to 190 in 2015. Hate is really rising all over the U.S., and we have to admit that.
Early in the documentary you say, “We are allowing hate and bigotry and racism and discrimination to be the norm. The new normal is hate.” How do you think we got here?
Hate groups usually live on the Internet. They tend to have secret gatherings, and that was where they used to live. But then came Trump's announcement of his bid for the presidency in June 2015. It seems he has given those groups permission to express those racist and bigoted remarks. Hate groups and white supremacists feel threatened by minorities, so when they hear Trump attack immigrants, Muslims and people with disabilities, they feel he is talking to them. Many people have prejudices and biases, but, before Trump, they felt they were not allowed to express that out of their bedrooms. But now it is open. Before Trump, it was politically incorrect, but now it’s dangerous because it’s out in the open. And I’m sure the question in your mind is: how do you know this? How can you support this with data? It’s simple. Last year, 20 people were killed by white supremacists, 63 mosques were attacked, and, as I said earlier, the number of organizations linked to the KKK increased. It’s not just the perception that racism is being expressed out in the open; the numbers based on reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center say the same thing.
The theme of “home” comes up a lot in this documentary. From the Muslim Kenyan immigrants saying Minnesota “is home,” to the Mexican-American children calling Texas home to, even you, telling the several white supremacists you spoke with that this is “our home.” Why do you think it’s hard for people to understand that the U.S. can be “home” to all types of people?
It is our home. When you grow up, you don’t look forward to becoming an immigrant. You become an immigrant because you have to, because something is happening in your country that you need to leave and something from this country is pulling you in. What’s amazing is that 14 percent of the U.S. population, which is foreign-born, thinks it’s our country, and it is. It’s difficult for people to understand it’s our country. When I confront white supremacist groups about this being our country, they hate the idea. Here’s the problem: They feel threatened. They feel we are taking over their cities, jobs and opportunities. But the fact is that in 2044, white non-Hispanics will become a minority. What’s already happening in California and New Mexico, where whites are becoming the minority, will be the norm for the rest of the country, and racist groups are resisting and rebelling to that. We have to define right now what kind of country we want.
When speaking with Jared Taylor, a white nationalist and founder of the magazine American Renaissance, he bluntly told you that if he and his followers have their way, “we would ask you to go.” How did you feel in that moment?
That’s the scary part. There are groups in the country who are willing to openly discriminate and exclude other groups. I consider the U.S. my home. My kids were born in this country. It is disconcerting and incredibly sad that people don’t realize that this is also our country. A Ku Klux Klan leader told me he was superior to me because he was white and I was Latino. I decided not to say anything in a three-hour gathering of white supremacists because it was not safe for me as an immigrant to do that, and that’s what we wanted to expose. Hate is present. This presidential election has exposed that. And this will continue. I don’t think hate is going to end with the election. I think the damage has been done already. It’s going to take us many years to repair the damage.
You cover issues of race, ethnicity and immigration frequently as a reporter and anchorman. Was there something you learned while making this documentary that surprised you?
I’ve been living in this county for 33 years, and I never felt so much hate against me and other minorities and immigrants. I never expected to be ejected from a press conference. I never expected someone telling me he’s superior to me because he’s white and I’m Latino. I never expected to be scared to say a word. That level of intolerance surprised and scares me. If this is happening to someone who has been an anchorman for Univision for 30 years, someone who is somewhat protected because I’m in the public eye, just imagine the people who are invisible, who are undocumented. Imagine the fear they feel.
What do you hope viewers get from “Hate Rising?”
I hope that people feel uncomfortable, that they hate the images they see in the documentary. I hope that it makes them realize that we have to take a stand against racism. I hope they don’t’ like it.
“Hate Rising” will premiere on Univision and Fusion on Sunday, October 23 at 10 p.m. Catch a trailer of the documentary above.