Fear, Hate and the Power to Destroy: Part 1 of 2

Fear, Hate and the Power to Destroy: Part 1 of 2

S.E. Williams

Tensions were high across the country last weekend as the nation reflected on the horrors witnessed in Charlottesville, Virginia, one year ago. It was an event many Americans found unconscionable–the spectacle of several hundred white nationalists and white supremacists marching, torches in hand on a Southern town, spouting hate and dressed for battle.

“Fear is the most debilitating emotion in the world, and it can keep you from ever truly knowing yourself and others—its adverse effects can no longer be overlooked or underestimated. Fear breeds hatred, and hatred has the power to destroy everything in its path.”
Kevyn Aucoin

By the time the weekend of terror ended, one young woman was dead, and a nation came face to face with a white supremacy they could no longer deny and that has existed in this country since its birth. Both collectively and individually, white nationalists and white supremacists involved represented a form of hate born of a fear of others, that has refused to die. 

In addition, many Americans came to realize this country had elected a president, who following the event finally, put his own racist mentality on full display for the world to see. He did this by boldly and brazenly attempting to convince those appalled by what happened in Charlottesville, not to believe what they saw. He claimed there was a moral equivalency between the hateful and racist actors that weekend and those who opposed them.   

The hate displayed in Charlottesville is the same hate that has haunted ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ community and those with disabilities across this country for generations; and continues to foster tensions today. The individuals who perpetrate hate crimes dwell among us and at times, go unnoticed. 

For example, the Riverside County Sheriff Department’s Regional Gang Task Force was not looking for “hate” when they served a search warrant at a residence in the 5000 block of Ensenada Way in the City of Riverside on August 31, 2017, however upon entering the property, officers found hate slogans and anti-Semitic symbols indicative of neo-Nazi and White supremacist ideology. 

In addition, they found a loaded AR-15assault rifle and hundreds of rounds of assault weapon ammunition along with heroin and methamphetamine. 

The officers arrested two brothers, Jonathan Pazderski and Nathaniel Henderson. The men were charged with possession of an illegal assault weapon, possession of heroin and methamphetamine while armed. Other charges included being an ex-felon in possession of a fire arm and ammunition, possession of a high capacity magazine, and for being under the influence of a controlled substance while armed.

Earlier last year, in June, Riverside County deputies responded to two incidents of vandalism in the City of San Jacinto. The incidents occurred near the 800 block of Horizon Court where responding officers found cars spray-painted with swastikas and racial epithets.

Three months earlier in March 2017, 55-year-old Aubrey Clawson was arrested on suspicion of committing a hate crime, arson, fire-bombing and resisting arrest. Clawson was charged by the Riverside Police Department with a hate crime after he set a fire and shouted derogatory comments about the race and nationality of the alleged victim.

This is just a small sampling of the 27 hate-related events reported in Riverside County in 2017. There were even more incidents in San Bernardino County last year—there was a total of 38 hate-related incidents reported.  

The FBI defines an event as a “hate crime” when it is motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias when it comes to “race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity or gender identity.”

Across California, there were a total of 1,093 reported hate crimes in 2017. This represented a 17.4 percent increase over 2016, according to the Hate Crimes Report released by the state attorney general’s office in July.  

Since 2014, hate crimes have increased dramatically year over year. The state saw a 20 percent increase between 2014 and 2016, and a nearly 44 percent increase in the three-year period between 2014 and 2017. 

In May, the California State Auditor released a report that caused some to question not only the validity of the downturn in hate crimes during those years, but hate crime data in general. 

The auditors noted California is undercounting hate crimes because outdated policies have led law enforcement agencies to misidentify or fail to report incidents. In addition, over the past decade, “hate crimes in California have been successfully prosecuted at just half the rate of felonies overall. 

Although neither Riverside or San Bernardino County were involved in the audit, its results reverberated around the state. Auditors found 97 instances of hate crimes that the agencies failed to report to DOJ, or roughly 14 percent of all hate crimes identified by the four law enforcement agencies that were reviewed which included Los Angeles, Orange County and two others. The auditors noted, “Correct reporting to DOJ is essential to raising awareness about the occurrence of bias-motivated offenses nationwide, and to understanding the nature and magnitude of hate crimes in the State.”

Last year, just as recorded in years past, most hate crimes reported last year were rooted in racial bias with the lion’s share, 27 percent, targeting African Americans.  Across the board, crimes against victims due to their race, sexual orientation and religion rose dramatically in 2017.  

Before the recent upsurge in activity, however, hate crimes trended downward in California between 2011 and 2014.

This year’s Hate Crime Report is the first annual assessment since Donald Trump assumed the presidency in January 2017. There is little doubt his overt race baiting tweets and presidential directives against Hispanics, Muslims, immigrants from what he called “shxt- hole countries” is having an impact and there are growing concerns they will continue to encourage more painful attacks. 

This report will continue next week with insights from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and an in-depth interview with and  Brian Levin, Director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino.

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