Paul R. Lehman, Southern Poverty Law Center’s work misunderstood by Opinion writer

December 8, 2016 at 10:06 pm | Posted in American history, Bigotry in America, Ethnicity in America, Prejudice, President, President Obama, race, Race in America, racism, The Oklahoman | Leave a comment
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A recent “opinion” article “Law Center’s new ‘hate’ report misconstrue cause and effect” (The Oklahoman 12/6/2016) shows just how uninformed many Americans are about bigotry and hate in America. The writer points to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as the culprit in the matter of tracking and reporting actions of hate groups in America. The article begins with identifying a recent SPLC report relative to the ‘hate incidents’ in the United States and the connections they have to President-elect Donald Trump. The article misses the point of the report when it stated that “But a closer look at the report shows these ‘incidents’ include obnoxious behavior of a type that predated the election.”

In essence, the article writer is suggesting that many of these ‘incidents’ have nothing to do with Trump and should not be considered as relevant to the report. We need not be reminded that many of the ‘incidents’ began when Trump started his ‘birther campaign’ to try to discredit President Obama and continued to grow once Trump entered the presidential race. Ignoring the seriousness of the hate and bigotry generated by many of Trump’s words and actions, the article notes that “Without doubt, Trump’s rhetoric has been crude at times, and we’ve criticized his excesses. The culture is already [ course] enough without a president adding to the rot.”For many Americans, the words and actions coming from Trump relative to women, ethnic and religious groups, not to mention the press, would not be described as “crude” and “excessive,” but unbefitting a candidate for President of the United States.

To add insult to injury, the article stated that “Still, it’s worth noting Trump has denounced those who would use his election as an excuse for racist actions or statement.”What is the value of a denunciation coming from the lead perpetrator of the action? Trump, as well as most Americans, has been conditioned to recognize bigotry, but to overlook it if it does not impact them directly. Yes, bigotry is in the fabric of American society, but as long as no one points to it, it is continually promoted and supported. Be that as it may, the focus of this blog is not Trump, but the “opinion writer’s” lack of understanding regarding “hate groups” in America and the work of the SPLC.

In order to fully appreciate the efforts of the SPLC, we offer their statement of purpose” The Southern Poverty Law Center is a nonprofit organization that combats hate, intolerance and discrimination through education and litigation. Its Intelligence Project, which prepared this report and also produces the biannual investigative magazine Intelligence Report, tracks the activities of hate groups and the nativist movement and monitors militia and other extremist antigovernment activity. The SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance project helps foster respect and understanding in the classroom. Its litigation arm files lawsuits against hate groups for the violent acts of their members”

The apparent purpose of the Opinion article was to quibble over the number of ‘hate incident’ occurring during Trump’s presidential race: “The group declares there were 867 ‘hate incidents’ in the first 10 days after Trump’s election. Those figures come from two sources—media and self-reporting to the center. The latter category is one that justifies skepticism, since there’s certainly a share of the public willing to fabricate incidents.” The article fails to see that the number of incidents is not the critical point, but the fact that these incidents occur at all! The report states that “it was not possible to confirm the veracity of all reports.” Therefore, because the SPLC could not verify each and every report, the “opinion writer” suggests we should question the entire report.

The “Opinion writer” (OW) questions the number of incidents as they relate to Trump’s election and attempts of remove any association of Trump with these numbers. The OW used as an example of how Trumps could not be responsible for the increase in ‘hate incidents’ by focusing on Oklahoma. He noted that “Oklahoma’s state population represents a little more than 1 percent of the total U.S. population. Trump received the support of 65 percent of Oklahoma voters [for the record, all 77 of Oklahoma’s counties voted for Trump], compared with less than 29 percent for Clinton. Only a few states gave higher levels of support to Trump.” The OW then made the statement: “If Trump’s election emboldened supporters to act racist, then one would expect Oklahoma to be flooded with incidents.”The writer is guilty of committing a fallacy in logic known as “hasty generalization” by concluding that because one thing exists, then the other should exist was well. Not true!  So, because the SPLC found only five “hate incidents’ in Oklahoma, this coincidence is proof enough for the “OW” to question the report.

The “OW” in the article’s last paragraph attempts to impugn the integrity of the SPLC and its work: “Actual threats, vandalism and attacks should absolutely be reported and prosecuted. But the Southern Poverty Law Center tries to equate hearsay reports of ugly comments with actual physical violence against minorities, and then effectively absolves the perpetrators of genuine racism by shifting the blame to politicians.” Many hate groups want the attention and publicity that comes from “self-reporting;” so, this is why the SPLC noted in the report that “it was not possible to confirm the veracity of all reports.” Yet, the OW wants to condemn the organization for doing it job and suggesting that it shifts the blame of bigotry to unbiased politicians like we might assume—Trump. We might ask the OW for a definition of “genuine racism” since, evidently, to the writer other forms of racism/bigotry exist.

The reference this blog made to the OW being uninformed is underscored throughout this article by references to the number of “hate incidents” reported by the SPLC in a report focusing on the increase since the election of Trump. The focus of the OW should be, in order to serve a public good, to help in debunking the concept of numerous biological races that form the basis of the origins of the many ‘hate groups’ in America. These groups firmly believe in the false concept of a white race, the OW should   help to replace that myth rather than quibbling over the number of “hate incidents.”

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