Bankole: Liberal groups must earn black loyalty
Liberals have long sought to convince blacks they have the answer to the problem of the color line. That they, not conservatives, are the ones who can put an end to the midnight of racism in America. As a result, blacks must remain grateful for advancements that were championed decades ago by white liberal politicians on their behalf.
But black support for liberal causes never wavered over the last half a century. What has changed, however, is liberal support in affirming equal rights for blacks and to end institutional racism as well as other vestiges of a sordid historical past.
The most powerful expression of liberal hypocrisy on race is the moral collapse of the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center.
The Southern Poverty Law Center gained prominence by suing and successfully bankrupting the most notorious racist organization in America, the Ku Klux Klan.
Decades later, the organization is morally imploding for its own alleged racial discriminatory practices against black workers.
Some of the allegations that have been reported in the media about the SPLC are deeply disturbing. They include relegating blacks to very low-level positions inside the behemoth organization, while whites occupy nearly all the prestigious positions of influence.
The scandal has been so devastating that it forced the removal of the group’s co-founder, Morris Dees, a liberal powerhouse and a man once viewed as the high priest of race and morality.
“As a civil rights organization, the SPLC is committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world," then SPLC President Richard Cohen said last month in announcing the firing of Dees. “When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action.”
Within weeks of Dees’ exit, including the group erasing him from its website, Cohen himself stepped down as the turmoil continues to rock the organization.
The Montgomery Advertiser newspaper on March 22 reported, “Dees had weathered criticism for decades,” based on a 1994 series the paper did citing complaints of racial discrimination against black staffers.
The paper said some of the staffers of the SPLC at the time “accused Morris Dees, the center’s driving force, of being a racist,” and added that black employees “felt threatened and banded together.” Dees denied all allegations at the time.
The SPLC for a long time occupied an important place in the national psyche as a preeminent paragon of morality. This pristine space allowed the organization to raise money and gain public trust and confidence including black loyalty from across the spectrum.
In fact, last year a letter asking for donations sent out to supporters across the nation was written by Toni Morrison, the celebrated black author and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature.
“That’s what I love about my friend Morris — he stands up to hate, racism and intolerance with a deep passion and a remarkable clarity of purpose. It was his thinking the unthinkable that inspired him to sue powerful hate groups for the violent acts of their members,” Morrison wrote in a glowing letter.
In another graph, Morrison says, “Morris and the Southern Poverty Law Center are doing vital work in our nation’s courtrooms and classrooms. As long as hatemongers seek to divide us, their work will be crucial to our nation’s health.”
Apparently, based on the allegations that have forced dramatic leadership changes, SPLC wasn’t leading by example on racial tolerance inside its own house, even as it raised millions of dollars. As one of the richest nonprofits in the nation, the group boasts of $450 million in assets, according to a 2017 tax filing.
It appears as if SPLC was more concerned with power and accumulation of wealth rather than actually doing what it preached. It’s going to be a difficult comeback for an organization that many white liberal politicians of the last 40 years were proud to be associated with.
Now the SPLC must demonstrate it’s not a reflection of what civil rights activist Malcolm X said in a 1963 interview at the University of California Berkeley, that many white liberals act friendly toward blacks, “but being friendly and being a friend are two different things.”
Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which is broadcast at 11:30 a.m. weekdays on Superstation 910AM.