So I was just out shopping at Trader Joe’s, like a good Seattleite, and when I emerged wit my groceries I was hailed by a great guy looking for support on behalf of an organization that I’m very sorry to say I’d never heard of before – SPLC, the Southern Poverty Law Center. As far a I was pitched their main mission these days in securing rights for the LGBTQ community in the Deep South. But it’s far from their only mission, and to pull from their website as they can pitch themselves much better than I can:
“The Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the Center works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.
Founded by civil rights lawyers Morris Dees and Joseph Levin Jr. in 1971, the SPLC is internationally known for tracking and exposing the activities of hate groups. Our innovative Teaching Tolerance program produces and distributes – free of charge – documentary films, books, lesson plans and other materials that promote tolerance and respect in our nation’s schools.
We are based in Montgomery, Ala., the birthplace of the modern civil rights movement, and have offices in Atlanta, New Orleans, Miami, Fla., and Jackson, Miss.”
These people are the real deal, doing work that desperately needs to be done in those deep places that need it the most. Places that seem far to us. Struggles that, in their way, are far beyond our attention or concern. Gay marriage and adoption are legal here. Bullying isn’t in our conscious lives because many of us are no longer in school and/or don’t have children of that age. The assaultive impacts of racism don’t disrupt our lives because we’re part of a largely homogeneous community that leads the “green, innovative, coffee-fueled life.” A sweet latte costs $3.50 – so does a dozen eggs+ a pound of fruit that could make breakfast for a family of three for several days. A new video game is $60 – that could go an impactful way towards paying the legal fees of a challenged family fighting a system that doesn’t favor them. It’s things like that, those things beyond our attention and concern because most of us are in positions of power and privilege (whether we like it or not or know it or not) where we don’t have to worry about being beaten up daily, about whether we’ll be “encouraged” to go to a different school, about if we’ll show up to work only to find we’ve been fired for the way we love, about if our children will be denied what they medically need because of how they look.
Which is all to say… it’s not a guilt trip, I swear. Just some thoughts on how we always have the opportunity to be more aware. And more so, we always have the opportunity to DO something in response to that awareness. Perspective, is I guess the word I’m looking for. Many of the people that the SPLC helps – be it by education or legal fees or other means – would be unable to fight for the rights and consideration they’ve been denied without its support. Support that comes from paying legal fees, paying the time of qualified educators and lawyers and professionals, and so on.
So if you see anyone representing SPLC when you’re out and about in Seattle – give them a minute, even just one. Listen to what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Consider if there’s anything you have the time or resources to do, be it contributing financially or volunteering or who knows what. And if you find a “yes” bubbling up from within, listen to it. And know that you’re making a difference. You really are. You’re your own actor playing your own character on your own stage, telling your story your way and pushing back the darkness of fear and ignorance that would otherwise swallow the world.