The SPLC failed to mention at least 2000 reported acts of discrimination towards white children in their recent report on hate in American public schools, even though a third of the teachers who responded affirmatively to having seen discrimination claimed to have witnessed that particular kind (nearly 6000 out of 10,000 teachers said they witnessed discrimination of some form). But why would the SPLC ignore so much hate, when their mission is “fighting hate and bigotry”? Their own document says that public schools are now 50% minority, and approximately a quarter of those schools have populations that are greater than 70% minority, so surely some discrimination flowed in the opposite direction?
Part of the problem may be that the SPLC has not caught up with the changing times, and the ways that shifting demographics will continue to impact racial/ethnic power dynamics in the years to come. Discrimination against whites has historically been a non-issue, primarily because white people were a super majority, accounting for nearly 85-90% of this country’s population all the way up until the mid-late 90’s. Most of the discrimination that took place was overwhelmingly white on minority (or other marginalized groups). So the vast majority of American race reform policy has been focused on reducing that particular form of bigotry.
But as the country moves to a majority minority status, affecting younger generations far sooner than the general population as a whole, we need to pivot away from (once justified) racial double standards on which forms of discrimination are intolerable, and which are simply a (somewhat understandable) reaction to intolerance, and pivot towards a policy that treats all forms of discrimination as equally untenable. By doing so we can still take into perspective that not all forms of intolerance are created equal at the group level. For example, antisemitism is a uniquely pernicious form of bigotry that affects Jews in a very specific way, and it has manifested itself in abundance on both the left and the right (not to mention the kind that stems from the Arab speaking world). And African Americans do still experience, in some way, the after affects of historical injustice, and we must constantly be vigilant to how the cards may still be stacked against them at the structural level. But that’s a measure of nuance that should be layered on top of a consistent approach to hate in general, not one built upon racial/ethnic double standards, especially not in a society as diverse as ours.
Finally, the way we study and respond to racism and bigotry needs to move away from a narrative driven approach, and towards a more objective, less political scientific methodology. This means recognizing the affects of discrimination as universally abhorrent and psychologically damaging at the individual level, regardless of the average characteristics of that individual’s group (being in the majority is not a mystical shield against the dehumanizing affects of marginalization and bigotry) It also means asking questions like what is the best way to manage diversity, based on what we know about the human tendency towards tribalism? Or how can we create a more shared sense of community, when some of the downside effects of increased diversity appear to include an erosion of social trust and cohesion? Or what can we learn from our evolutionary past to help us in the fight against intolerance in the present? We should also enhance our understanding of prejudice by leveraging what we have learned about human psychology from all of the social sciences, not just fields such as sociology and critical theory, but also fields such as evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, and moral psychology.
It is the responsibility of supposedly non-partisan groups such as the SPLC to help drive our national conversation about hate and bigotry, and to ensure that conversation keeps up to date with a changing America. Only time will tell if they will prove themselves to be such a leader, or just another ideologically aligned special interest group.