We treat right-wing extremists and radical Islamic killers as if they are two separate issues. But in fact, research suggests that the same underlying factors cause homegrown Americans to break bad—whether they join a radical Islamic terrorism group or the Ku Klux Klan.
According to research conducted by my fellow cultural psychologists Sarah Lyons-Padilla and Michele Gelfand, Muslims in the US radicalize when they believe their lives do not matter—a belief that arises from the feeling that they don’t really belong anywhere. Discrimination, racist rhetoric, and xenophobic policies only exacerbate these feelings of “cultural homelessness.” Radical Islamic groups exploit these emotions by targeting young people who feel alone and adrift, and then restore their sense of belonging and meaning. Thus radical Islamic terrorism is not primarily a religious problem; it is a social problem.
Research from our Stanford University lab, led by Lyons-Padilla, suggests that a similar psychological process may drive white Americans to join white supremacist and other militant right-wing groups. The slow death of manufacturing, the isolation of smaller American towns and rural areas, and stagnating working- and middle-class wages have left a broad swath of Americans feeling unmoored and insignificant. The widespread acceptance of redneck jokes, white-trash impressions, and comments about “basket of deplorables” rub salt into these wounds.
Like radical Islamic groups, white supremacist and other right-wing terrorist groups offer people (especially men) who feel isolated and disempowered a chance to feel important and welcome. It’s the same psychological phenomenon, different culture war. And thus the KKK gains new recruits along with ISIL.Read it all here.