CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The NBC Charlotte Defenders team uncovered records of white supremacist groups recruiting kids as young as 11-years-old right here in our state, and it could be happening under your own roof.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said hate groups are going after kids who are looking for friends and kinship -- and grooming them into extremists.
"We have documented a concerted and growing effort to recruit young people on campus but also in middle and high schools around the country," said ADL regional director Doron Ezickson.
He said more and more hate groups are turning to the internet to recruit new members, and it’s working.
"Before the internet, recruitment would happen quietly, it would happen in the corners of society. Today, it’s all out there for anyone to see for anyone to read," Ezickson said.
The ADL has identified scores of cases in North Carolina of white supremacists heavily recruiting online. They’re going after kids, particularly young white boys.
"You do have a North Carolina one of the most active Klan chapters in the country. They’re targeting folks in their teenage years. We’ve seen evidence of activities focused on kids as young as 11," Ezickson said.
How are they doing it? Ezickson said the seeds are planted slowly and deliberately.
"The recruitment process begins with identification of individuals who respond to perhaps jokes or memes that are perhaps insulting of somebody," he explained.
"They’re looking for individuals who are insecure or lost or who are angry, and they offer a sense of belonging. They offer a sense of an explanation as to why there’s pain in somebody’s life."
The ADL said they have identified hate groups using these tactics to mold kids’ minds -- using online platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, even video games.
"We know that all teenagers are looking to belong to something in some way, and so they offer a type of perverse belonging," Ezickson said.
"If these teens aren’t identified and challenged as they’re exposed to this hate, that can quickly become something that is mainstream for them, and it’s part of their identity, and unfortunately as we’ve witnessed can lead to horrific violence in the name of that hate."
Ezickson said parents should keep a close eye on what their kids are looking at and sharing online, and intervene early if their child starts making off-color or remarks or offensive jokes.
"We’ve heard many parents who only after something happens realize that they were wrong, that they were naïve, that their children hid things from them," Ezickson said. "There are people actively promoting this information out there and trying to change the mindset of our kids."
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