Seattle Foundation Blog

Hate Crimes and Groups Are on the Rise

Southern Poverty Law Center shares its work tracking bias and bigotry at Seattle briefing


September 19, 2017

Hate groups and bias incidents are on the rise in the U.S., requiring new tactics and approaches to combat them in the digital age.

That was the overarching message during a briefing for Seattle Foundation staff by Willemijn Keizer, Director of Institutional Giving at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, the SPLC is one of the largest civil rights champions in the country. Founded in 1971, the Center challenges bigotry across the nation and identifies white supremacists and other hate groups.

Keizer said there has been a large increase in reports of hate crimes and bias incidents since the November 2016 election. Since 2000, she added, there has been a 50 percent increase in hate groups.

She said that the tactics of hate crimes have changed from cross burnings on lawns in the past to aggressive digital trolling to harass and threaten opponents. Keizer said another concern is self-radicalization of white supremacists, as was the case with Dylann Roof, who killed nine black people in 2015 as they prayed in a Charleston, South Carolina church. SPLC demonstrated how search engines like Google list hate-filled websites high in search results even though they provide false and misleading information. In Roof’s case, his browsing history included searches for statistics on black people killing whites, leading to biased sites rather than official crime statistics.

SPLC has taken a similar tack to reach out to tech companies that may feature, sell or process digital payments for white supremacist literature, music, apparel and other products. After they brought attention to white supremacist music featured on iTunes, Apple CEO Tim Cook ordered the content removed from the site.

The Center also offers its award-winning Teaching Tolerance curriculum to schools across the country and forms anti-bias groups on college campuses. They file lawsuits to push systems reform, including suing the state of Alabama over its grossly overcrowded prison system. Additionally, they’ve started an immigrant justice program that provides legal counsel for detainees across the southeast through the volunteer help of pro bono attorneys.

SPLC also provides resources to law enforcement to teach officers how to recognize hate groups, symbols and activity, and how to respond to them.

If you are interested in investing in organizations fighting hate and seeking justice for vulnerable people, contact a Seattle Foundation philanthropic advisor

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