The Southern Poverty Law Center once served a vital role in shutting down Klan groups and dangerous white supremacist groups. Morris Dees endured death threats and was a heroic figure in the struggle for civil rights.
But as with many focused organizations, the SPLC is a victim of its own success. The reason to be of the SPLC no longer exists. The Klan and other such groups are virtually non-existent. The threat to society is from two sources, lone wolves or very small groups of people, as to which the SPLC cannot be effective, and Islamic extremists, as to which the SPLC appears not to care.
For a long time, my best estimate is that it was well over a decade, I regularly donated to the SPLC. I stopped those donations long ago, as the SPLC drifted from its original mission into left-wing politics. Take a look at the Blogroll at SPLC's Hatewatch blog; it is populated almost exclusively with left-wing bloggers and George Soros-related left-wing organizations.
Nowadays, if I see or hear of Mark Potok, the spokesman for the SPLC, it almost always is in the context of Potok trying to paint conservative groups with the white supremacist brush in order to help Democratic Party politics. Potok and others at the SLPC have politicized the SPLC needlessly, and blurred the line between those who believe in a limited role for government in the interest of personal and constitutional freedoms, and the very small fringe who espouse racist ideology.
An incident highlighted by James Taranto in The Wall Street Journal (h/t Instapundit) demonstrates that SPLC needs to reexamine and recalibrate its mission. Read the entire article, but here is the gist.
Carol Swain is a Professor at Vanderbilt Law School. I've seen her on television, and perused her website. She has a long scholarly history of writing on the role of race in society, and generally could be construed as a political conservative.
Potok of SPLC recently smeared Swain as an "apologist for white supremacists" because Swain did a review of a film which, as described by Taranto, contained controversial racial comments by the filmmaker as he interviewed people in the film. Swain's review was not an approval of these comments, but rather, an approval of the film as a valuable tool for discussing racial issues:
This outstanding film provides an opening salvo for the long-awaited national debate on race. Meticulously done, it offers people of all races a rare opportunity to engage in cross-racial dialogue. I highly recommend this film for social science courses dealing with race, class, and ethnicity.Nothing in Swain's review, or prior writings, possibly could be considered legitimate fodder to brand her an "apologist for white supremacists." That is a highly inflammatory accusation, and one which should not be made against anyone, and particularly against a black woman, without rock solid evidence. Potok has no such evidence.
Swain's response to the accusation was right on point:
One of the most troubling facets of life today is the powerful movement by left-leaning organizations and governmental officials to engage in character assassination, by labeling anyone who disagrees with their liberal utopian vision for society as unworthy of participating in the conversation about our nation's future. A quick look at global history reveals the dangers of following such a short-sighted approach.Potok and the SPLC need to apologize to Swain, and to figure out where they are going with the SPLC in the 21st Century. The SPLC quickly is becoming a caricature of an organizations which hides behind its past honorable accomplishments in order to shield its present politically-motivated use of the race card. Becoming the organizational equivalent of Jesse Jackson is not something to which the SPLC should aspire.
Today, conservatives and Christians (of which I am both) are targeted by groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center that regularly seek to discredit us.
If all the SPLC has left is the race card, it needs to find a different game.
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