Southern Poverty Law Center

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The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is an American non-profit legal organization, whose stated purpose is to combat racism and promote civil rights through research, education and litigation.

The Center is based in Montgomery, Alabama, in the Southern United States. It was founded in 1971 by Morris Dees and Joe Levin as a civil rights law firm. It is known for its tolerance programs, its legal fight against what it deems to be white supremacist groups, and its investigations of alleged hate groups. The Center publishes a quarterly Intelligence Report which investigates groups it accuses of extremism and hate crimes in the United States. The center also sponsored the creation of a Civil Rights Memorial in downtown Montgomery designed by architect Maya Lin.

The Center has received criticism from some journalists for its political tactics and financial practices, as well as allegations of racial discrimination within the organization itself by former employees.{{#if:||{{#if:Category:Articles with unsourced statements|[[Category:Articles with unsourced statements {{#if:|{{#if:|from|since}} }}]]}}}}{{#if:citation needed|[citation needed]|}}{{#switch:||Template|Talk={{#if:|{{#ifexist:Category:Articles with unsourced statements since {{{date}}}||}}|}}}}

Contents

History

The Southern Poverty Law Center was organized by Dees and Levin in 1971 during a desegregation case (Smith v. Young Men's Christian Association[1]), as a law firm to handle anti-discrimination cases in the United States. The organization's first president was Julian Bond, formerly of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Bond served as president of the SPLC until 1979 and remains on its board of directors. In 1979 the Center brought the first of its many cases against the Ku Klux Klan. In 1981 the Center began its "Klanwatch" project to monitor and track the activities of the KKK.

In 1983, Klansmen firebombed the center's office.<ref name=AStone>Andrea Stone, "Morris Dees: At the Center of the Racial Storm," USA Today, 3 August 1996, A-7</ref> The SPLC claims that several other attempts to bomb the center and kill Morris Dees have been thwarted.[2]

In 1987 the group won a case against the United Klans of America.<ref name=AStone/> Further, they won a $7 million judgment for the mother of Michael Donald, a black lynching victim in Alabama.<ref name=AStone/>

In 1990, the SPLC won $12.5 million in damages against Tom Metzger and his White Aryan Resistance when a Portland, Ore., jury held the neo-Nazi group liable in the beating death of an Ethiopian immigrant.<ref name=AStone/>

In 1989 the Center unveiled its Civil Rights Memorial designed by Maya Lin. The Center's "teaching tolerance" project was initiated in 1991, and its "Klanwatch" program has gradually expanded to include other "anti-hate" monitoring projects and a list of reported "hate groups" in the United States.

A 1996 USA Today article claimed that the Southern Poverty Law Center is "the nation's richest civil rights organization", with $68 million in assets at the time (in the fiscal year ending in 2003, its assets totalled $156 million [3]).

Tolerance.org

The SPLC's initiatives include the website Tolerance.org. The website has been a past winner of a Webby Award which is a set of awards presented to the "world's best websites."<ref>http://www.tolerance.org/about/index.html</ref> The website houses multiple initiatives:

  • Daily news about groups and individuals working for tolerance and fighting hate;
  • Guidebooks for adult and youth activists;
  • Practical resources for parents and teachers; ("Teaching Tolerance")<ref>http://www.tolerance.org/teach/index.jsp</ref>and
  • Entertaining and educational games for young children.

According to the SPLC "Teaching Tolerance provides educators with free educational materials that promote respect for differences and appreciation of diversity in the classroom and beyond."<ref>http://www.tolerance.org/teach/about/index.jsp</ref>

"Teaching Tolerance" is aimed at two different age groups of students with separate materials for teachers and parents. One portion of the project targets elementary school children, providing informational material on the history of the civil rights movement.[4] The center's material for children includes a publication entitled "A fresh look at multicultural 'American English'" that explores the cultural history of common words. A project website designed for elementary school children includes an interactive program that allows users to "explore" political topics such as school mascots with Native American names, the Confederate flag, and popular music and entertainment. It alleges that many of these highlighted events exhibit cases of racial, gender, and sexual orientation insensitivity.

A similar educational program aimed at teenagers in the middle and high school age groups includes a "Mix it Up" project urging readers to participate in various school activities that encourage interaction between different social groups.[5] Other features of the teenager educational project include political activism tips and reports highlighting examples of student activism. A monthly SPLC publication for teens promotes a highlighted political movement, normally focusing on minority, feminist, and LGBT youth organizations. The program also provides publications to students such as "Ways to fight hate on campus" suggesting ideas for community activism and diversity education.

"Teaching Tolerance" also provides advice and materials for parents aimed at encouraging multiculturalism in the upbringing of their children. [6] A guide published by the project urges parents to "examine the 'diversity profile' for your children's friends," move to "integrated and economically diverse neighborhoods," and discourage children from playing with toys or adopting heroes that "promote violence." The publication also advises parents on the use of culturally sensitive language such as promoting gender-neutral phrasings such as "Someone Special Day" instead of the traditional Mothers Day or Fathers Day and urges them to ensure "cultural diversity reflected in your home's artwork, music and literature."

Documentaries

The SPLC also produces documentary films. Two have won Academy Awards for documentary short subject: "Mighty Times: The Children's March," in 2005, and "A Time for Justice, America's Civil Rights Movement" in 1995. Five others have been nominated.

Groups listed as hate groups

A continuing source of controversy is the identification and monitoring of organizations that the SPLC labels hate groups. The SPLC describes their definition of hate group as:

All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics. [...] Listing here does not imply that a group advocates or engages in violence or other criminal activity. [7]

The SPLC further categorizes these groups as Black Separatism (such as Nation of Islam), Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazi, Christian Identity, Racist Skinhead, Neo-Confederate, and "Other". Some organizations described by the SPLC as hate groups object strenuously to this characterization of them, particularly those in the Other category. VDARE, for example, insisted that the SPLC's actions were doing more harm to anti-racism than to genuine racism. [8] As of 2005 there were 161 organizations in the U.S. categorized as Other[9]

The SPLC lists several mainstream Christian organizations (Focus on the Family is one of them) as "Hate Groups" because of their stance opposing homosexuality.

Neoconfederate movement

The Southern Poverty Law Center is also the principal group reporting on the "neo-confederate" movement. A special report by the SPLC's Mark Potok in their magazine, Intelligence Report, describes a number of groups as "neo-confederate" in 2000.

The SPLC has carried subsequent articles on the neo-confederate movement. "Lincoln Reconstructed" published in 2003 in the Intelligence Report focuses on the resurgent demonization of Abraham Lincoln in the South. The article quotes the chaplain of the Sons of Confederate Veterans as giving an invocation which recalled "the last real Christian civilization on Earth." "Whitewashing the Confederacy" was an SPLC review that alleged that the movie Gods and Generals presented a false, pro-confederate view of history. [10] (See Controversy - FrontPage Magazine

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