Annamaria on Monday
I am lucky. I am a lover, not a hater. I don’t think I can help it. Sitting here, feeling my own insides, there doesn’t seem anywhere within me where hate could find a place to hide. I take no credit for this condition.
From birth, I was primed to oppose any group that wants to damage or subjugate people who are not like them. When I was barely a toddler, my father and my uncles were enlisting and leaving home to fight fascism. My Uncle John, my godfather, died on the push to Berlin, after having fought in Patton’s army in Sicily and at Anzio—in the country my grandparents had left to find a better life in America, the land of freedom and opportunity.
|My Uncle Johnny (l.), with Patton's Army in Italy.|
This Johnny never came marching home.
For the past week, stunned like most people I know, I have been unable to think coherently about the blow the election dealt to my ideals. And I have been arguing with myself about what to say here on MIE today. Then it occurred to me that I have been a member of the resistance for years and that I could ask you to join too.
This is not a group with rifles in the mountains or safe houses in the cities—like the French Resistance or the Italian Partigiani in WWII. God, I hope it doesn’t come to that. I ask you to join me in backing an anti-hate group with a proven track record: the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In 1980, when I first learned about the work of the Southern Poverty Law Center, I was a leftwing activist and the mother of an interracial eleven-year-old daughter. Their first fund-raising appeal, which defined the organization’s goal, was one that resonated with me. They were combatting the Ku Klux Klan by suing them in civil court for damages, on behalf of the families of people lynched by the Klan. What a novel idea. SPLC was out to weaken the KKK by taking away its funds and assets. Sounded like a splendid tactic to me. So I sent money. Twenty years later, I received a certificate from them thanking me for having donated every year since 1980. How nice, I thought, with a touch of pride. That day, I left for the airport to go and visit my 83-year-old father who was living in Florida.
When I arrived at my dad’s house and went in through the side entrance, he was sitting at the counter in his kitchen, reading his mail. And there in front of him was an identical certificate to the one I had left on my own desk at home. We had never spoken of our involvement, and I was surprised, not at his espousal of leftist causes, but of that particular one. Then he told me of an early childhood memory that I had never heard.
It took place in 1917, in the Western Pennsylvania coalfields. He then lived with his family in one of eight houses along either side of a dirt road, adjacent to a coalmine. He was three, barely tall enough to see over the windowsill. In the night, in the bedroom, with his father just outside the closed door, sitting on a chair with his loaded shotgun and rifle across his lap. Outside the window, men in white sheets rode on horses. Crosses were burning on the mountain. “We were immigrants. And Catholics,” my father told me, eighty-five years later, with tears in eyes.
Those men burning crosses would not have cared that all but the oldest child in that family had been born in the United States. Or that, in a few years, the father of that family would die of black lung disease, because he took coal from the earth for the profit of some tycoon. Or that all three of the little boys hiding in the bedroom with their pregnant mother would one day fight for the USA. In the minds of the men in sheets, my family were sub-human trash.
So I learned that my father and I had both donated to the same organization for twenty years for the same reason: to combat hatred. I urge you—in the face of this week’s reality—to do the same.
Founded by Morris Dees and Joseph J. Levin, Jr. in 1971 in Montgomery, Alabama, the Southern Poverty Law Center began as a civil rights law firm. In 1979, they started their first big suit against the Klan, and they went on weakening that hate group with such success (until now) that they branched out into combatting all sorts of discrimination. SPLC defines hate groups as ones that “attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”
SPLC takes no government support and no fees from their client groups. They raise funds from private donors. Full disclosure: between 1998 and 2007, a few articles were published calling attention to the Center’s fund raising efforts and sometimes accusing it of garnering donations by exaggerating the dangers of hate groups in the USA. Others said that there were more important issues, like homelessness, that merited all the money SPLC was raising. The naysayers posited that almost all hate crimes were committed by “lone wolves,” and no such effort against them was actually needed. (I guess/hope that this week those critics are rethinking their assessment of the actual perils from hate groups.)
The SPLC itself and its founder Morris Dees have been targets of violence. Their headquarters were bombed, their building and records destroyed in 1983. More attempts and threats have been made and indictments of anti-SPLC conspirators handed down.
The Center’s main efforts, in addition to litigation, are two: To track hate groups and their activities and to share the information with scholars and law enforcement. And their “Teaching Tolerance” effort—which prepares and distributes materials for schools and parents to help children grow up without hate in their hearts. They also offer training to law enforcement—both local and federal on how to track extremist groups.
Here, taken from the SPLC website is some of their information.
|Each circle designates a hate group|
(Please note that the Swing States are covered with these cells of hatred. More about that issue in another blog soon.)
Go to https://www.splcenter.org to see more data and to see the map for each state.
As a donor, in the past week I have been getting emails from SPLC, which have given me chance to appeal to the Mr. Trump, asking that he cool his hate rhetoric and take stands against discrimination. They have also informed me about the postelection hate activities.
I give $10 a month, hardly noticeable on my credit card bill. I invite you to join me in this support. One thing I can tell you for sure: Taking action—whatever action you take—will help you get over your shock and dismay.