Grappling with Racial Tension

Posted: May 27, 2017 in Activism, Interviews, Political, TheHereticVoice
Tags: , ,

https://grapplepodcast.atavist.com/grappling-with-racial-tension

Our very own Steve Smith was interviewed by Keystone Crossroads Emily Previti.

Click on the link above and check out Part 2 at the 13:40 mark.

Keystone United, then known as Keystone State Skinheads, ties its launch and wider recognition to a 2001 demonstration provoked by the race riots trials in the city of York. 

Founded in Harrisburg, the organization remains one of the largest active in Pennsylvania, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The group changed its name to avoid the association with violent groups that “go after nonwhites for no reason whatsoever,” said spokesman Steve Smith.

“That’s just wrong and not what we’re about,” he said.

The name change also came after multiple members were charged with violent hate crimes, including Smith himself.

He did two months in prison for his involvement in a hate crime involving other KSS members against a black man in Scranton in 2003.

Smith has been adamant he was a bystander, that there wasn’t physical harm to the victim and that he pleaded guilty to simple assault (rather than terrorist threats) to avoid harsher penalties and a greater expense.

Smith said Keystone United, which he joined 15 years ago at age 30, is less extreme than other groups he’s previously been affiliated with, including the Aryan Nations, NAAWP, and KKK, which he joined at 19 years old.

“I was young and angry. I knew what was happening to my area: high levels of nonwhite crime, violent crime,” he said.

Asked about racial tension, Smith cited similar underlying causes for current problems in his community of Pittston, Luzerne County, more than 25 years later.

Smith is originally from Chester County but moved to Northeastern Pennsylvania in 2006 when the area was undergoing major demographic shifts that continue today.

He said people associate the increasing diversification with an increase in violent crime, pointing to a spike in violence the city of Hazleton during 2000-2014. 

In Wilkes-Barre, the county’s largest city, the increase in violent incidents in the county was more dramatic in the 1990s, more than 70 percent, then all but leveled out over the course of the following decade, when the area’s minority populations really surged. The pattern is similar in Hanover Township and the city of Kingston,  according to a Keystone Crossroads analysis of FBI Uniform Crime Reports and U.S. Census statistics.

In Nanticoke, trends were similar to Hazleton, but the violent crime rate there has been down since 2010.

The area also has been struggling economically for decades. Over the past several years, the region’s recovery from the recession has been relatively slow, according to a Keystone Crossroads analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau and Labor Statistics.

Smith said he does not know what else might be at play, but that the nature of racial tension complicates finding solutions to what he sees as associated problems.

“People are afraid to speak publicly about these issues. That’s what’s probably causing this racial tension more so than just violent crime: the fact that people can’t openly speak about it without being labeled,” he said. “They don’t want to speak out about it because of the stigma. If you’re white and you speak out on behalf of your people, you are labeled these term buzzwords like racist and white supremacist.”

Smith is in his second term as a committeeman in the Luzerne County Republican Party. Fellow Keystone United member Ryan Wojtowicz is in his first term in the same role in a different district.

Smith said he is not aware of anyone else in elected office in Pennsylvania, currently, who shares their agenda, openly or not; and did not have specifics on plans to achieve the group’s goal of electing more people who are pro-white.

He also would not say how many people belong to Keystone United, other than membership is at its peak.

Smith says Luzerne County has a relatively high concentration of members, along with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. But he says the group’s stronghold is in Central Pennsylvania, which includes the cities of Harrisburg, Lancaster, and York.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s