The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. The SPLC was co-founded in 1971 by civil rights lawyer Morris Dees (b. 1937), who continues to serve as the “Chief Trial Attorney” for the organization.
The SPLC’s primary publication is the quarterly Intelligence Report. “The Year in Hate and Extremism 2011” is the theme of last month’s issue, and according to their calculation, for the first time in the history of the organization the number of hate groups in the U.S. now totals more than 1000.
The FBI explains that the primary purpose of hate groups is “to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against persons belonging to a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin which differs from that of the members of the organization.”
SPLC points out that while there are now 1,018 active hate groups in the U.S., that does not imply that all those groups advocate engaging in violence or other criminal activity. Still, they foster hatred toward others. The main types are black separatists, Klansmen, neo-Confederates, neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, and white nationalists. Other hate groups on the list target gays or immigrants.
The SPLC also publishes a “Hate Map,” indicating the location of their identified hate groups. Since I live in Missouri, I was sorry to see that there are 26 such groups to be found in MO, which is above the average per State. Of those, five are identified as “White Nationalists,” there are four each of groups typed as “Christian Identity,” Ku Klux Klan, “Neo-Nazi,” and “Racist Skinhead,” and three are “Black Separatist.”
In Kansas, only three hate groups are listed, one being Westboro Baptist Church, whose “over-the-top” anti-gay activities are widely known—and an embarrassment to most Christians, especially to those who are members of Baptist churches.
The Ku Klux Klan is, of course, one of the oldest (first formed in 1865) and best known hate groups in the U.S., and it was a bit disconcerting to see that four KKK groups are currently active in MO. Other groups, not so well known but also influential in some circles, include the neo-Nazi Nationalist Socialist Movement, the white supremacy group known as the Council of Conservative Citizens, and the Kingdom Identity Ministries, which has played a key role in advancing the Christian Identity movement since the early 1980s.
In addition, SPLC has identified some more “mainstream” Christian organizations as also being hate groups, much to the consternation of those organizations, such as the American Family Association, founded in 1974 by Donald Wildmon, and the Family Research Council, led by Tony Perkins since 2003.
When groups exists wholly, or even partly, for the purpose of discriminating against and demeaning people who are not white (Aryan), not Christians, or not heterosexuals, etc., they should be exposed as hate groups and opposed by people of good will.
The Southern Poverty Law Center is rendering a valuable service in exposing hate groups and their activities. I am happy that June and I have been supporting members of SPLC since 2004, the year we left Japan and began living in the U.S. again.