The Southern Poverty Law Center was supposedly founded to fight racism. It did so by filing civil suits on behalf of people who were the victims of violence by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups. The strategy was simple, hit violent racists where it really hurts – in the wallet. Apparently, it was a successful ploy. By the SPLC’s own estimate, there are only 3,000 KKK members remaining in the U.S.
So, what does a non-profit with a laudable purpose do when its own success renders it virtually obsolete? Most such organizations would either call it a day or move on to another good cause. But that didn’t happen with the SPLC.
You see, there’s big money in fighting racism. Americans don’t like blind hatred and we love the underdog. Helping David defeat Goliath is part of our national persona. So Americans willingly donate large sums of money to groups that take the side of the little guy. And exploiting America’s love for the underdog allowed the SPLC to amass an endowment that topped $470 million in fiscal year 2018. That’s larger than the endowments of many well-known colleges and universities.
In order to keep its doors open and to keep the money rolling in, the SPLC had to address the shortage of Nazis and Klansmen it had helped create. But rather than keep litigating, it decided to appoint itself the subjective arbiter of “hate” in the United States.
That may seem odd for a left-leaning civil rights group in the United States. After all, the First Amendment guarantees the freedom to express even the most vile political opinions. And, in the name of free speech, the American Civil Liberties Union defended the right of a neo-Nazi group to hold a public event in Skokie, Illinois.
But if your true concern isn’t combating racism, but instead remaining relevant and keeping the cash rolling in, what better way to achieve your goals than appointing yourself society’s arbiter of which political groups are bad (i.e., hate groups) or good (i.e., just advocating a political position). And that’s exactly what the SPLC did. It went busily about the business of falsely branding every politically conservative group that didn’t agree with the SPLC’s increasingly left-wing ideology as a hate group.
There was only one problem: It turns out that the self-appointed guardians of social harmony were guarding an organization that tolerated overt sexual harassment and only promoted older, white males into its senior ranks. Over the last few weeks, fed up employees finally made senior managers aware of the hostile environment that seems to have prevailed within the SPLC. As a result, the organization fired its founder, Morris Dees.
It’s kind of ironic that a so-called “civil rights group” – one that was tarring and feathering so many conservative entities as “haters” – wasn’t capable of seeing racial hatred, gender discrimination, and sexual misconduct in its own house. Perhaps the SPLC should have heeded its own advice about the dangers of hate.