English 101, 21
Southern Poverty Law Center: Here to Help?
Essential Question: What is the Southern Poverty Law Center and to what extent have they been effective in combating hate groups within the United States? Some of us are familiar with the story of Emmet Till, a young African American boy who lived in Chicago during the 1950’s. Emmet Till’s mother, Marrie Till sent her son to visit relatives in Mississippi. Emmet and his friend walked in the local convenience store looking for something to satisfy his sweet tooth. A white woman and walked into the same convenience store, and Emmet Till supposedly wolf whistled at her. She seemed disgusted and ran outside to her car to get a gun. But Emmet thought nothing of it; little did Emmet know that was the last visit to the convenience store he would make in his lifetime. Emmet was kidnapped from his uncles’ home in Money Mississippi later that night. He was found brutally beaten near the edge of the Tallahatchie River. Roy Bryant, which was the women’s husband, was found to be the murderer of Emmet Till. His brother who was later identified as an accomplice in the murder. Roy and his brother beat Emmet so badly that the only way officials could identify him was by a ring he had on his finger with the initials “L.T.” With an all white jury behind the brothers they got away with murder with nothing but a slap on the wrist. The story of Emmet Till is one of many but not the only of it’s kind (“PBS”). During this time there were not any organizations that could help with the injustice of the Emmet Till crime. Organizations needed to step in hate crimes are dealt with based on the different categories they lye in, hate based on race, religion and sexuality and the Southern Poverty Law center is a law firm that advocates for victims of discrimination and hate crimes; in the 1970’s the SPLC was highly effective in combating hate groups, but in recent years the SPLC has not been as influential in alleviating in civil rights issues. The Southern Poverty Law Center is known as “help for hate”, for it’s aid in counseling and safeguarding of people who are first hand victims of hate (“Who”). Knowing the devastating story behind Emmett Till one can only imagine how this affected his family, friends and community. The people who were victims in the continual hate crimes in the south had no one to turn to. The Southern Poverty Law Center was created in 1971 (“Who”). Joseph J. Levin Jr. of Montgomery, Alabama established the SPLC and his goal was to create a non-profit organization that helps citizens who are victims hate crimes, like those committed by white supremacy groups, and blacks that were excluded from good jobs, decent housing, quality educations and a rage of other opportunities. Since the Southern Poverty Law Center’s creation in 1971 they have expanded their offices in several different states such as Atlanta, New Orleans, Miami, and Jackson Mississippi. In the decades since it’s the Southern Poverty Law Center has been established they have shut down some of the nations dangerous hate groups by winning multimillion-dollar jury verdicts on behalf of their victims. They have knocked down institutional racism in the south, reformed juvenile justice practices, equality for women, children and the disabled, and protected low-wage immigrant workers from abuse. The Southern Poverty Law Center also feels the need to reach out with the next generation and created a group called Teaching Tolerance, a program that provided educators with classroom materials that teaches students the importance of tolerance and diversity (“Who”). In the past years in our home state California, hate crime rates have decreased. In 2008 to 2009 hate crime events decreased 22.3 percent, from 1,397 to 1,100. And the number of victims that have reported any type of hate related crime has also decreased 22.3 percent from 1,698 to 1,321 (“Hate Crime