The group, which seeks to document and prevent anti-Semitism and other bigotry, has tracked 104 incidents since the beginning of the school year in September, with an apparent surge in intensity in 2017: More than half of the incidents happened since January.
After a polarizing election and intense protests over race and police violence, reports of racist graffiti, students wearing blackface and using slurs, and other ugly incidents have been reported at colleges across the country. (There have also been a few reports that were later discredited as fabricated.)
The Anti-Defamation League attributes some of that surge to a calculated effort by hate groups.
“White supremacists have consciously made the decision to focus their recruitment efforts on students and have in some cases openly boasted of efforts to establish a physical presence on campus,” Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement. “While there have been recruitment efforts in the past, never have we seen anti-Semites and white supremacists so focused on outreach to students on campus.”
Some of the white-supremacist tactics include flooding campus fax machines with racist fliers, hanging anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant or anti-Semitic posters, visiting campuses to talk with students, giving public speeches, and holding rallies, according to the ADL’s Center on Extremism.
Incidents have happened at schools in 28 states, from Michigan to Tennessee to California to Virginia.
There have been multiple rounds of racist posters at Texas State University, said Debra Monroe, a professor who first saw some after the election that warned that words such as “multiculturalism” were code words for “white genocide,” worrying students and others on campus.
The Anti-Defamation League attributed many of the incidents nationally to three groups: Identity Evropa, American Vanguard and American Renaissance.
“The ADL needs ‘White supremacist’ boogeymen to stay in business,” Reinhard Wolff, director of administration for Identity Evropa, wrote in an email. “We’re not supremacists by any means, but we’re not really concerned with such childish labels. Our adversaries have to resort to name-calling and buzzwords because that’s all they have left at this point.”
Leaders of American Vanguard and American Renaissance did not respond to requests for comment.
American Renaissance’s website urges action, including inviting the founder to speak. “We especially recommend this option to students at universities,” the site says.
American Vanguard’s website says, “The American Vanguard is a National-Socialist youth organization using direct action to fight for a White America. Using the tactics made famous by National Action, we use flash demonstrations and flyer-pasting campaigns to achieve maximum publicity.”
Identity Evropa’s website includes this:
#ProjectSiege is the beginning of a long term cultural war of attrition against the academia’s Cultural Marxist narrative … If we are to be successful in combatting the current paradigm, it is imperative that we create space for our ideas at universities across the country. Speaking with students and helping them unpack some of their assumptions while gaining name recognition for our organizations are the ways in which we will create the foundation for that space. As students then begin to realize that the direction their lectures take them is based upon false assumptions by their instructors, they will begin rejecting the false narratives and begin looking to us for answers.
We have found that many students are open minded and willing to speak with us.
The site explains how the group works to build trust with students on different ends of the political spectrum, and noted in October that the group had put up fliers and stickers at more than two dozen colleges across the country.