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'Violence by Skinheads'

December 30, 1988

The content of Tamara Jones' article "Violence by Skinheads Spreads Across Nation," (Part I, Dec. 19) was so disturbing that a delay in commenting would be inexcusable.

What is distressing is not just the fact that such violent, racist, fascistic groups are emerging around the country but that: 1) they are becoming increasingly organized, 2) Capt. Wayne Inman of the Portland police has so little knowledge or history that he dismisses the skinheads because "they lack organization and leadership" and "because they don't have an economic base . . . ," and 3) the local synagogue leaders may be committing the same folly as Jews in Germany did six decades ago of ignoring the threats of such groups because they themselves were living comfortably in a society which they believed had accepted them--that they were integrated and therefore safe.

Clearly, because of such events, we have the advantage nowadays in this country of watchdog groups that are monitoring the activities of such people, for they unquestionably are reminiscent of the brown and black shirt thugs of Germany and Italy in the 1920s, who may have seemed like insignificant bullies until demented leaders emerged who were capable of uniting them into fearsome forces. By then it was too late for those who had been too smug and too blind to resist the violence and hatred whipped up by those earlier "Aryan youth movements." I applaud your paper for focusing attention on the problem and hope that state and federal officials will not leave it to local enforcement agencies, but will unhesitantingly and promptly use (among other things) the weapons of our civil-rights legislation to control such a societal threat.

Such groups can never be dismissed as merely fringe lunatics; they know that their predecessors have at times succeeded by sheer persistence. We all must know that eternal vigilance is essential for the preservation of everyone's liberty, for the history of this century shows that those who thought they were safe from such threats soon became victims, too.

ELLIOTT R. BARKAN

Professor of History

and Ethnic Studies

Cal State San Bernardino

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