The First Fourteen

“We were 14, 15, 16 years old…We didn’t have a clue we were making history, we were just trying to make some wrongs right.” ~Bette Mae Fikes

Bettie Mae Fikes walked arm in arm on March 7, 1965, with a group of 600 students and teachers to protest racial inequality in voting rights in Selma, Alabama. Not old enough to vote herself, she put her life on the line to fight for the right to do so. Although the group marched peacefully, they were violently mowed down by law enforcement, causing the day to be forever remembered as “Bloody Sunday.”

Visiting the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in Alabama this past year, I watched the documentary Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot and viewed the expansive exhibit memorializing these protesters. Lecia Brooks, Outreach Director, and I discussed the obstacles that still impede equal access to voting. I left that meeting painfully aware that my own political involvement paled in comparison. I was embarrassed to acknowledge that the extent of my activism consisted of posting editorials on Facebook and ranting about politics to like-minded friends. I resolved that it was time to up my game, to do something.

Shortly thereafter, I dug in. I discovered that only half of the voter-eligible Millennials turned out in the 2016 presidential election, despite their 31% share of the electorate. The overall tally was also distressing: just 60% of all eligible voters participated in the Presidential election. These numbers inspired me to formulate a plan to bring my peers to the polls.

I decided to organize an event in Chicago, called “I Will Vote,” to raise awareness about the importance of voting. Recalling my conversation with Lecia, I invited the SPLC and a local organization called Chicago Votes to speak at my event.

Advertising the event to my friends, teammates, and classmates, I received enthusiastic, supportive responses. Optimistically, I reserved a theater large enough to hold 125 attendees to accommodate what was sure to be a huge turnout.

On the cold, rainy morning of the event, friends began to call, offering various excuses for their unavoidable absences. I panicked. What if no one showed up? Not only would I have failed to do something, but Lecia would have flown all the way from Alabama for nothing. The turnout only confirmed my worst fears. In total, only 14 people came: six family friends, six teammates, and two adults from a local conservative group who attended solely to argue with my co-host and me. Not even the Chicago Votes representatives bothered to show up. Responsible for spearheading the event, I was crushed by the failed attendance.

Nonetheless, Lecia gave her presentation as planned and opened the floor for discussion.  I stepped up as a facilitator to ensure that my peers were engaged in the discussion. We covered every topic imaginable: voting, affirmative action, police brutality, and the increasing division between political ideologies.

As the afternoon unfolded, I began to see value in the day despite the size of the crowd. Reduced attendance notwithstanding, the event was not a failure. I had reached outside of my comfort zone to act upon an issue which I cared deeply about. Although the conversation veered away from its intended purpose, I felt that each attendee walked away with some new kernel of knowledge. Even if they just posted their thoughts on Facebook or ranted to their friends, as I had—it was a start. And, if each of them found their own 14 new faces, we’d soon realize my dream of a packed auditorium.

Instead of discouraging me from further involvement, this experience underscored that I have my work cut out for me. The day made me stronger, secure in my resilience, and eager to try again. Next time, I will get 15 attendees, and one day, one of us will change the world.

Molly Gallagher, a high school senior in Chicago, wrote this essay as part of her college application. She was recently accepted by Middlebury College in Vermont.

What’s Up with the Alt-Right — the Legacy of Charlottesville

When President Trump was inaugurated, on January 20, 2017, young Republicans at the University of California at Berkeley were gleefully anticipating the arrival of alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Their invitation portrayed him as “a man who bathes in sheer and unmitigated awesomeness” — a description loaded with sophomoric giddiness.

The speech was cancelled because of violent protests. But for months after, the appearance of alt-right speakers at college campuses created similar campus spectacles.

Then came Charlottesville, Virginia.

On August 11-12, violent clashes over removing a statue of Robert E. Lee led to the hit-and-run death of protester Heather Heyer, and the injury of 19 others. The event, called Unite the Right, shocked the nation, and tore away any pretense that the alt-right was an intellectual or entertaining segment of conservative politics. It was now seen as part and parcel of a dangerous, right-wing movement that included Klansmen, white nationalists, white supremacists, anti-semites, neo-Nazis and militia — elements present in Charlottesville.

“It seems like what might have been a little in the shadows has come into full sun, and now it’s out there and exposed for everyone to see,” said Sue Riseling, executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators in an interview with the PBS Newshour, six days later.

For researchers who have followed the alt-right, from its days in the dark corners of the Internet, Charlottesville was a turning point.

The event sparked dozens of protests across the U.S. in support of diversity and tolerance.

While the alt-right was not a lead organizer of the Charlottesville rally, leaders like Richard Spencer and Matthew Heimbach participated and exploited the massive news coverage to announce new rallies and campus initiatives. As a result, colleges braced for more attacks.

Campuses enjoyed a ten-day lull, but then the number of hate-filled flyers on campuses picked up dramatically, according to an analysis by SPLC’s Intelligence Project. One flyer, distributed by the alt-right, at Arizona State University at the start of the fall semester, read, “Welcome to College White Boys and Girls.”

Since mid-August SPLC has recorded 117 campus flyer campaigns by white nationalist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-black groups.

Energized by Charlottesville’s notoriety, these groups also resumed their campus recruiting efforts — behind the banner of freedom of speech. In many cases, campus Republican groups extended invitations.

Milo Yiannopoulos touched off protests at California State University in Fullerton.

Right-wing blogger Lucian Wintrich was himself arrested at the University of Connecticut after students stole his speech.

The good news is that students were awakening to the threat of the far right, protesting speakers, reacting to hate incidents, holding faculty accountable for their beliefs and language, and holding rallies to promote tolerance and diversity.

One month after Charlottesville, when white nationalists returned, they were met by dozens of students and faculty of the University of Virginia in a peaceful counter-demonstration.

Cornell University, responding to student protests over the assault and racial attack on a black student, announced a series of steps “to be a more equitable, inclusive and welcoming university.”

At the University of Maryland, students demanded that faculty and staff undergo mandatory cultural competency training.

If measured in air time, security costs and hours of debate, we can only conclude that our work to expose and blunt the impact of the alt-right has just begun.

You can help. Read our guide to the Alt Right. Follow its advice. Try to prevent events from getting off the ground. But if a racist speaker comes to your campus, do not confront the speaker. Instead, organize a counter event, or series of events, to put their propaganda in context, and spread the truth. And let us know of your efforts.


Written by Jim Carrier 




Diversity, Defined

by Tara Subramaniam

“Community in Diversity.” One of Georgetown’s oft-touted Jesuit values, the phrase is often mentioned by the university to entice prospective students. Students may catch a glimpse of it on a banner around campus in their day-to-day hustle or in the university’s promotional materials.  

Behind the flashy catchphrase, the question remains: What does it actually mean to be a community in diversity?

From an admissions perspective, of the 1,633 students in the Class of 2021, 227 are Asian, 183 Hispanic and a record 172 are black. Together, they make up 35.6 percent of the class — while nearly two-thirds of students, 64.4 percent, are white. By comparison, white students make up 58 percent of all college students nationwide.

This disproportionality is not limited to race. According to a study by The Equality of Opportunity Project published by The New York Times in 2017, the median income for a parent of a student in Georgetown’s Class of 2013 was $229,100, the 8th highest of the 2,395 U.S. colleges surveyed. More students at Georgetown come from families in the top 1 percent of income earners than from the bottom 60 percent combined.

Despite the university’s efforts, challenges remain in promoting a true community in diversity — one that fosters a sense of inclusion for those of traditionally marginalized socio-economic, racial and sexual backgrounds. The numbers tell one story, but the students tell another.

Read the full blog post



Upcoming SPLC on Campus Webinars!

SPLC on Campus is continuing our webinar series in the month of October, with two new webinars. Here’s the schedule:

Wednesday, October 11 (1pm CT): Outreach and Organizing – Shay will lead this webinar, which will detail best practices for both general outreach and organizing on your campus and in your community. You can listen to this webinar by registering here.

Wednesday, October 25 (1pm CT): General Q & A – Daniel will lead this webinar, which is designed to answer all your questions, big or small! We’ll be taking past questions and submissions as well. Participate in this upcoming webinar by registering here.

Join us!

RESPONSE: On the So-Called "PC Culture"

Jonah Dratfield’s recent opinion piece in The Massachusetts Daily Collegian questions the idea that what he calls “PC culture” is consistent with liberal values. Modern American liberalism has certainly been focused on social issues such as reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, and racial justice in the most recent election cycles, but the ideology has also been identified with goals of civil liberties, equality, and social justice more generally. Dratfield readily states that “protection of basic human rights” is the defining liberal value, but he appears to misunderstand what it means to be “politically correct”; that is to say, he pushes the recurring idea that liberals and young progressives have taken political correctness too far and seek to censor those whose ideas are different or challenging. This perspective scares up images of students in safe spaces with their fingers in their ears, rejecting criticism or violently lashing out against people with different values.

I couldn’t disagree more.

In my view, what has been called “PC culture” is a backlash from those with privilege who are being called out or facing consequences for racism, hate speech, cultural appropriation, and exclusion. These issues come to the forefront on college campuses, where many young students face diverse communities for the first time. As the United States becomes less white and less dominated by European cultural norms and values, many activists, academics, and students have taken the lead in finding new ways of discussing issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, and the ways that systematic oppression pervades all corners of our society. It’s a broad conversation that needs to happen everywhere, and that conversation involves new language that is not historically oppressive.

SPLC on Campus, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s program for college students, empowers student activists to discuss such issues on their campuses and work for social justice in their communities. There is currently no SPLC on Campus club at UMass (Dratfield erroneously states otherwise, linking instead to the UMass Amherst Community Campaign, where UMass faculty and staff, in support of #UMassCares, can donate to the nonprofit of their choice). We do, however, have about 50 SPLC on Campus clubs around the country that are dedicated to student activism, voting rights, and speaking out against hate on campus.

Dratfield himself says that “criticizing what one views as unethical is not only a right, it is a civic responsibility.” The government and publically-funded colleges cannot infringe on one’s freedom of speech, but that does not mean that extremists and people using hate speech are above criticism or face no consequences. It is unethical and wrong for those with privilege to use violent and oppressive rhetoric to keep historically marginalized communities down, and it is wrong for them to keep silent in the face of oppression. As long as communities worldwide suffer the ongoing results of European colonialism, communities remain segregated, black and brown people in the United States are disproportionately targeted by an unfair criminal justice system, and trans people are victims of violence, there will be a need for liberals and others to have a way to discuss these oppressive systems and also a way to speak out against them.

Upcoming: National Voter Registration Day, September 26th!


It’s been a little over four years since the Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which for decades has upheld voting rights in the name of protecting Americans from racial discrimination. One of the primary results of this ruling was that states had far more power to enact voting restrictions without any federal oversight or any thought to their past history of voter suppression. As the passage of voter ID laws, restricted polling hours, and the number of closures of state DMVs that issued voter IDs have all been on the rise, it is extremely important that we come together and work so that friends, fellow students, and neighbors can get registered to vote.

Focusing on voting as essential to our democracy, National Voter Registration Day was first observed in 2012 and has only gotten more popular over the years. On Tuesday, September 26th, volunteers and organizations all over the country will be hosting events or going out as individuals to register people to vote. Last year over 750,000 new voters were registered as a result of National Voter Registration Day, and SPLC on Campus has again signed on as an official partner for this year’s event.

Go to their website to look for a National Voter Registration Day event near you, and don’t forget to register here for our upcoming webinar, “The How-To’s of Voter Registration,” which will be held on Wednesday, September 20th!

SPLC on Campus is going to UC Berkeley!

altrightguide cover.png

Last month, it was announced that Steve Bannon, Ann Coulter, and Milo Yiannopoulos will be coming to the University of California at Berkeley for a planned "Free Speech Week" from September 24-27.

Ahead of the week's events, SPLC on Campus has been working with Berkeley's Gender Equity Resource Center and has planned an event named for our guide to the Alt-Right movement, "The Alt-Right on Campus: What Students Need to Know." The event will be held in Berkeley's Multicultural Center at 6pm on September 19th, and the speaker will be Ryan Lenz, Senior Investigative Reporter with the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project. Lenz will share information on an orchestrated campaign by white nationalists to make college campuses their battleground and how students can effectively respond.

For more information, check out the event's Facebook event here.

Check out this week's SPLC on Campus webinars

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in our two webinars this week, “The Alt-Right on Campus” and “Starting an SPLC on Campus Club.” If you were unable to take part, we have them available for you.

“The Alt-Right on Campus”— our first webinar was led by Shay and details the lead figures of the alt-right, as well as how to respond on your campus. This webinar is available to view by registering here.

“Starting an SPLC on Campus Club”— this webinar was led by Daniel and focuses on how to become an official club, how to recruit members, and how to become an effective force for change on campus. This webinar is available to view by registering here.

Look out for our next webinar, “The How-To’s of Voter Registration,” Wednesday, September 20th, at 1pm CT.

President Trump's DACA Statement, Annotated.

Yesterday, the Trump administration announced that it will be rescinding the DACA program, which has protected 800,000 young adults from deportation. President Trump released a statement defending this heartless, inhumane decision. For accuracy and context, the SPLC has annotated the president's statement below.

"As President, my highest duty is to defend the American people and the Constitution of the United States of America. At the same time, I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws[1]

"The legislative branch, not the executive branch, writes these laws [2]

– this is the bedrock of our Constitutional system, which I took a solemn oath to preserve, protect, and defend. [3]

"In June of 2012, President Obama bypassed Congress to give work permits, social security numbers, and federal benefits [4] to approximately 800,000 illegal immigrants currently between the ages of 15 and 36. The typical recipients of this executive amnesty, known as DACA, are in their twenties. Legislation offering these same benefits had been introduced in Congress on numerous occasions and rejected each time. [5]

"In referencing the idea of creating new immigration rules unilaterally, President Obama admitted that 'I can’t just do these things by myself' – and yet that is exactly what he did, making an end-run around Congress and violating the core tenets that sustain our Republic. [6]

"Officials from 10 States [7] are suing over the program , requiring my Administration to make a decision regarding its legality. [8] The Attorney General of the United States, the Attorneys General of many states, and virtually all other top legal experts [9] have advised that the program is unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court.

"There can be no path to principled immigration reform if the executive branch is able to rewrite or nullify federal laws at will. [10]

"The temporary implementation of DACA by the Obama Administration, after Congress repeatedly rejected this amnesty-first approach, also helped spur a humanitarian crisis – the massive surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America [11] including, in some cases, young people who would become members of violent gangs throughout our country [12] , such as MS-13. [13]

"Only by the reliable enforcement of immigration law can we produce safe communities [14], a robust middle class, and economic fairness for all Americans.

"Therefore, in the best interests of our country, and in keeping with the obligations of my office, the Department of Homeland Security will begin an orderly transition and wind-down of DACA, one that provides minimum disruption. [15] While new applications for work permits will not be accepted, all existing work permits will be honored until their date of expiration up to two full years from today. Furthermore, applications already in the pipeline will be processed, as will renewal applications for those facing near-term expiration. This is a gradual process, not a sudden phase out. Permits will not begin to expire for another six months, and will remain active for up to 24 months. Thus, in effect, I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act.

"Our enforcement priorities remain unchanged. We are focused on criminals, security threats, recent border-crossers, visa overstays, and repeat violators. I have advised the Department of Homeland Security that DACA recipients are not enforcement priorities unless they are criminals, are involved in criminal activity, or are members of a gang. [16]

"The decades-long failure of Washington, D.C. to enforce federal immigration law has had both predictable and tragic consequences: lower wages [17] and higher unemployment for American workers [18], substantial burdens on local schools [19] and hospitals [20], the illicit entry of dangerous drugs and criminal cartels, and many billions of dollars a year in costs paid for by U.S. taxpayers. [21] Yet few in Washington expressed any compassion for the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system. Before we ask what is fair to illegal immigrants, we must also ask what is fair to American families, students, taxpayers, and jobseekers.

"Congress now has the opportunity to advance responsible immigration reform that puts American jobs and American security first. We are facing the symptom of a larger problem, illegal immigration, along with the many other chronic immigration problems Washington has left unsolved. We must reform our green card system, which now favors low-skilled immigration and puts immense strain on U.S. taxpayers. We must base future immigration on merit – we want those coming into the country to be able to support themselves financially, to contribute to our economy, and to love our country and the values it stands for. Under a merit-based system, citizens will enjoy higher employment, rising wages, and a stronger middle class. Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue have introduced the RAISE Act, which would establish this merit-based system [22] and produce lasting gains for the American People. [23]

"I look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to finally address all of these issues in a manner that puts the hardworking citizens of our country first.

"As I’ve said before, we will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion – but through the lawful Democratic process – while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve. [24] We must also have heart and compassion for unemployed, struggling, and forgotten Americans.

"Above all else, we must remember that young Americans have dreams too. Being in government means setting priorities. [25] Our first and highest priority in advancing immigration reform must be to improve jobs, wages and security for American workers and their families. [26]

"It is now time for Congress to act!"


[1] Here, President Trump appeals to the law. Last month, he showed contempt for the law by pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been convicted of criminal contempt of court for intentionally violating a federal court order prohibiting racial profiling. Back to statement.

[2] Since taking office Trump has bypassed Congress 45 times to issue executive ordersBack to statement.

[3] As explained by Vox, Trump's reasoning for rescinding the DACA executive order contradicts his words and actions concerning his Muslim ban executive order. "Exercising some discretion to ensure that 800,000 particularly sympathetic cases out of a total population of about 11 million won’t be targeted is a perfectly reasonable approach," writes Vox's Matthew Yglesias, "and Trump absolutely had the option of standing up in court for his right to take that approach. He simply chose not to." Back to statement.

[4] DREAMers would have contributed $24.6 billion to Social Security and Medicaid over the next decade. Back to statement.

[5] The House passed a DREAM Act in 2010, but the bill couldn't get enough support in that year to get over a Senate filibuster. Back to statement.

[6] The Supreme Court has not ruled DACA to be unconstitutional. Back to statement.

[7] The attorney general of Tennessee backed away from the suit last week, citing the "human element" and saying that "there is a better approach." Back to statement.

[8] The attorneys general sent Trump a letter threatening to sue the administration. They did not file a lawsuit. Back to statement.

[9] A group of 100 law professors from around the country have said they disagree with Trump. They say DACA is constitutional. Back to statement.

[10] For comparison, Trump's Muslim ban executive order, made without legislative approval, drastically complicated the immigration process for many immigrants and refugees. Back to statement.

[11] DACA critics contend that inaccurate reporting on DACA in Central American newspapers led to this "massive surge of unaccompanied minors." According to the Huffington Post, the children who crossed the border were more likely motivated by a potential reunion with family than changes in U.S. immigration policy. Back to statement.

[12] Many families fled Central America to the United States because of violent gangsBack to statement.

[13] Trump has repeatedly used MS-13 to push his hardline immigration policies. Back to statement.

[14] Research has shown that immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born citizens, and many law enforcement officials believe intensified immigration law enforcement is a policy that actually undermines public safety. Back to statement.

[15] The 800,000 young people who were brought to this country as children will lose their jobs, health care and access to education. Back to statement.

[16] To be a DACA recipient, one must have no significant criminal record. Back to statement.

[17] According to a report prepared last year by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, immigration has an overall positive impact on economic growth and small-to-no-effect on wages and employment for native-born workers. Back to statement.

[18] Economists say there is no clear connection between less immigration and more jobs for native-born workers. Back to statement.

[19] Education leaders across the country have urged the Trump administration not to end DACA. Back to statement.

[20] Undocumented immigrants are not a burden on hospitals. They provided a surplus of $35.1 billion to the Medicare Trust Fund between 2000 and 2011, according to a Journal of General Internal Medicine study. DACA recipients have also become medical students and doctorsBack to statement.

[21] DACA beneficiaries would have contributed $460.3 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product over the next decade. Back to statement.

[22] This quiz from TIME shows how difficult it is to meet the RAISE Act's high bar for immigration. Back to statement.

[23] The RAISE Act reflects the shameful agenda of nativists and white nationalists who fear the growing diversity of our country. Back to statement.

[24] Those American citizens include children whose parents have been protected by DACA. Back to statement.

[25] An NBC/Survey Monkey poll released last week showed that nearly two-thirds of Americans support program allowing DREAMers to stay in the country. Back to statement.

[26] Experts say repealing DACA would worsen the shortage of workers in the United States. Deporting DREAMers would also mean deporting taxpayers. The Cato Institute has estimated a potential $60 billion loss in tax revenue to the federal government and $280 billion hit to economic growth over 10 years. Back to statement.

This article was originally found on the Southern Poverty Law Center's website.

SPLC on Campus Announces Fall Webinar Series

SPLC on Campus is offering a series of webinars that are designed to aid in starting and maintaining a successful club, teach you about the Alt-Right, and offer tips for engaging in nonviolent protest on campus and conducting voter registration.

Here’s the schedule:

Wednesday, September 6 (1pm CT): The Alt-Right on Campus – using our newest guide to the Alt-Right, this webinar will detail the lead figures in the alt-right movement, as well as how to respond to this movement. EDIT: This archived webinar is available by registering here.

Friday, September 8 (1pm CT): Starting an SPLC on Campus Club – this webinar will focus on how to become an official club, how to recruit members, and how to become an effective force for change on campus. EDIT: This archived webinar is available by registering here.

Wednesday, September 20 (1pm CT): Voter Registration – this webinar will offer tips on conducting voter registration on campus and in your community.

This schedule will be updated with any changes and links for registration.

Join us!