RACIST SKINHEAD SCENE TODAY

Racists skinheads in the United States today remain loosely organized at best, despite an increase in the number of groups. Such skinheads typically fall into one of three categories:

Members of skinhead groups. There are many white supremacist groups that are explicitly skinhead groups (often called "crews"). Only one of these, the Hammerskin Nation, can truly be considered to have a national presence, and even this group is basically divided into regional chapters, such as the Confederate Hammerskins, Western Hammerskins, etc. Most skinhead groups are regional in nature, such as the Keystone State Skinheads, which is active primarily in eastern Pennsylvania, or the Connecticut White Wolves. In many areas, skinhead groups may be entirely local, limited to a single city or in some cases to a suburb or neighborhood.

Skinhead groups are notoriously short-lived. This is especially true for those that form in high schools or in local neighborhoods, something that is common in places such as southern California. Only a very few skinhead groups, such as the Hammerskins, have managed to survive for a significant length of time. In most communities with an active racist skinhead presence, racist skinhead groups form, divide, and fall apart with great frequency. For example, in the past few years, the racist skinhead scene in Phoenix, Arizona, has seen a variety of skinhead groups come and go, including the National Skinhead Front, the Arizona Northern American Skinheads, the SS Guardians, and the Phoenix Bootboys, among others. Individually, these groups, many of which have overlapping memberships, are not necessarily important-collectively, they indicate that Arizona has a thriving racist skinhead scene, a fact emphasized by numerous violent criminal incidents in recent years.

There are often significant regional variations in racist skinhead activity. In California, for example, much of the racist skinhead scene resembles that of Phoenix, above, with a wide variety of small, rapidly forming and dissolving skinhead groups. However, southern California in particular is home to several very large skinhead groups, such as the PEN1 (for "Public Enemy Number One") Skins, whose membership numbers in the hundreds. Some of these groups resemble traditional street gangs more than they do other racist skinhead groups; moreover, they often have ties to racist prison gangs such as the Aryan Brotherhood, or may have a presence in the prison system themselves. As a result, they are often engaged in the criminal activities associated with such gangs, especially the dealing of drugs such as methamphetamine. In some other areas of the country, there are racist skinheads with ties to outlaw motorcycle gangs. Racist skinhead groups are susceptible to significant local variations.

Skinhead Members of Other White Supremacist Groups. Racist skinheads may be found as members in almost any white supremacist group, but are most often found in neo-Nazi groups. Even the National Alliance, whose founder William Pierce and successor Erich Gliebe both disparaged skinheads, has skinhead members. Some groups in particular have recruited skinheads as members, including the Creativity Movement, White Revolution the National Socialist Movement, and Volksfront. Volksfront straddles the line between being a neo-Nazi group and a racist skinhead group.

Skinhead activities Racist skinhead activity can occur online or in the physical world. Although racist skinheads may show up for any type of racist or anti-Semitic event, from Holocaust denial conferences to neo-Nazi rallies, musical events are the most popular. These range greatly in size. On one hand are large white power music festivals, planned months in advance, with multiple bands scheduled, intended to attract hundreds of attendees. Recent examples include Aryanfest, Nordicfest, and Hammerfest. On the other hand, there are also small events involving just one or two bands at one or another of the few music clubs that permit white power bands.

Racist skinheads also plan a variety of other social gatherings. Many of these so-called "unity" gatherings are designed to bring a variety of racist skinheads and other white supremacists in an area together. In Ohio, for example, unity gatherings were held in the fall of 2003 and 2004. When weather permits, barbecues are quite popular among skinheads. Some racist skinhead groups hold gatherings or concerts to honor Adolf Hitler's birthday on April 20.

Skinhead subculture Racist skinheads range in age from early teens to veterans in their forties. Longstanding skinhead groups such as the Hammerskins tend to have older members. However, the skinhead subculture is a youth subculture and the majority of racist skinheads appear to be in their late teens and early twenties. Men make up about 60-70% of racist skinheads, but women comprise 30-40% of the movement. Women skinheads often call themselves skinbyrds, skingirls, chelseas, or sometimes featherwoods.

Because racist skinheads are part of a greater skinhead subculture that includes non-racist and anti-racist skinheads, they tend to share many of the same symbols and like some of the same music. However, racist skinheads tend to harbor a considerable animosity towards anti-racist skinheads, or sharps, and computer screen names such as "sharpshooter" are common. A number of anti-racist skinheads have been the victims of violent racist skinhead attacks. For their part, traditional (non-racist) skinheads tend to ignore or downplay racist skinheads, while anti-racist skinheads actively oppose them, and often seek to confront them physically at white supremacist events.

A significant part of skinhead culture is their dress and appearance. Racist skinheads typically shave their heads (much less common among female skinheads), tattoo themselves heavily, and often wear skinhead-related garb such as workboots and suspenders.

However, this is not always the case. Some racist skinheads and white supremacists even urge skinheads to blend in better to avoid detection. For example, in a well-received speech before almost 150 white supremacists including Outlaw Hammerskins, Northern Hammerskins, Hoosier-State Skins, Klansmen, and Creativity Church members at a White Unity festival in Osceola, Indiana, in August 2003, influential white supremacist Tom Metzger presented a practical plan for "revolutionary action." This plan called for "lone wolf" tactics, silent operations, blending with the community (regrowing hair, covering/removing tattoos), the acquisition of professional jobs, identification of informants, and a commitment to action. Metzger stressed the importance of maintaining a stoic attitude symbolized by the "Five Words" ("I have nothing to say") if one is caught in illegal acts. As a result of efforts like these, not every racist skinhead fits the stereotypical profile.

Unaffiliated Racist Skinheads.
By far the majority of racist skinheads in the United States do not belong to any organized group at all. They may show up at white power music concerts, hang out with other local skinheads, involve themselves in white supremacist gatherings and events, and participate in on-line racist skinhead Web sites and forums, but they do not join or formally affiliate themselves with any particular group. Many unaffiliated racist skinheads are past members of skinhead groups, or will join racist skinhead groups in the future. They are an unorganized, constantly changing mass of haters. In most communities that have an active racist skinhead scene, unaffiliated racist skinheads will outnumber those who are involved in organized group activity.

Racist skinhead activity can occur online or in the physical world. Although racist skinheads may show up for any type of racist or anti-Semitic event, from Holocaust denial conferences to neo-Nazi rallies, musical events are the most popular. These range greatly in size. On one hand are large white power music festivals, planned months in advance, with multiple bands scheduled, intended to attract hundreds of attendees. Recent examples include Aryanfest, Nordicfest, and Hammerfest. On the other hand, there are also small events involving just one or two bands at one or another of the few music clubs that permit white power bands.

Racist skinheads also plan a variety of other social gatherings. Many of these so-called "unity" gatherings are designed to bring a variety of racist skinheads and other white supremacists in an area together. In Ohio, for example, unity gatherings were held in the fall of 2003 and 2004. When weather permits, barbecues are quite popular among skinheads. Some racist skinhead groups hold gatherings or concerts to honor Adolf Hitler's birthday on April 20.

Racist skinheads range in age from early teens to veterans in their forties. Longstanding skinhead groups such as the Hammerskins tend to have older members. However, the skinhead subculture is a youth subculture and the majority of racist skinheads appear to be in their late teens and early twenties. Men make up about 60-70% of racist skinheads, but women comprise 30-40% of the movement. Women skinheads often call themselves skinbyrds, skingirls, chelseas, or sometimes featherwoods.

Because racist skinheads are part of a greater skinhead subculture that includes non-racist and anti-racist skinheads, they tend to share many of the same symbols and like some of the same music. However, racist skinheads tend to harbor a considerable animosity towards anti-racist skinheads, or sharps, and computer screen names such as "sharpshooter" are common. A number of anti-racist skinheads have been the victims of violent racist skinhead attacks. For their part, traditional (non-racist) skinheads tend to ignore or downplay racist skinheads, while anti-racist skinheads actively oppose them, and often seek to confront them physically at white supremacist events.

A significant part of skinhead culture is their dress and appearance. Racist skinheads typically shave their heads (much less common among female skinheads), tattoo themselves heavily, and often wear skinhead-related garb such as workboots and suspenders.

However, this is not always the case. Some racist skinheads and white supremacists even urge skinheads to blend in better to avoid detection. For example, in a well-received speech before almost 150 white supremacists including Outlaw Hammerskins, Northern Hammerskins, Hoosier-State Skins, Klansmen, and Creativity Church members at a White Unity festival in Osceola, Indiana, in August 2003, influential white supremacist Tom Metzger presented a practical plan for "revolutionary action." This plan called for "lone wolf" tactics, silent operations, blending with the community (regrowing hair, covering/removing tattoos), the acquisition of professional jobs, identification of informants, and a commitment to action. Metzger stressed the importance of maintaining a stoic attitude symbolized by the "Five Words" ("I have nothing to say") if one is caught in illegal acts. As a result of efforts like these, not every racist skinhead fits the stereotypical profile.



Terror Plot in Tennessee
On October 22, 2008, the Crockett County, Tennessee, Sheriff's Office, along with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), uncovered and prevented what could have been the deadliest extremist shooting spree in years, designed to culminate with the assassination of Barack Obama.


ADL Reports Resurgence of Racist Skinheads in U.S.
Extremism in America
Hate Symbols Database
Upcoming Extremist Events

CAVEAT: NOT EVERY SKINHEAD A RACIST
The skinhead subculture was not originally racist —and, in fact, today around the world there remain many non-racist or explicitly anti-racist skinheads (often called sharps, for “skinheads against racial prejudice”).



2009 Anti-Defamation League