Sponsors of Hate Today Must Be Held Accountable

Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr | 4/5/2017, 3 p.m.
Over the next several days, across the United States, people will pause in solemn remembrance of the 49th anniversary of ...

Over the next several days, across the United States, people will pause in solemn remembrance of the 49th anniversary of the tragic assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968. Back then, I was a young, college student and staff member of Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in North Carolina on that tragic day in 1968.

There is no question that it has been a long and difficult road for our communities, during the past half century, as we continue to fight for equal rights and to eliminate racial hatred, discrimination and bigotry.

Many in North Carolina may recall my beginnings in activism when, as a 13-year-old, I fought to integrate the public library in Oxford, N.C., and was the first African-American to successfully struggle to get a library card there. Later, I worked for the SCLC, CORE, NAACP, and the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. Today, I proudly serve the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) as President and CEO.

Over the years, our work has taken different shapes and has required many different approaches and levels of intensity to ensure we continually push our leaders and fellow citizens further down the path of freedom, justice and equality.

Under the Obama Administration, we were fortunate to have friends in the White House, the Department of Justice and all across the Administration, who recognized the historic opportunities and worked with us to maximize them. We saw many advances for our communities and the priorities were rightly on addressing criminal justice reforms, labor, income, education, poverty and access to health care. We did not arrive fully there, but we were well on our way to making more progress for all people in America.

With the rise of the so called alt-right movement and its anti-immigration agenda that many believe helped to elect President Trump, we find ourselves working to maintain the status quo in civil rights rather than advancing this fight. And we have every right to be concerned and frustrated. Yet, as Dr. King believed, we should work to get each President of the United States, including President Trump, to denounce bigotry and hatred, as well as to champion racial equality.

We must tap into that energy to push our agenda and ensure that our nation’s leaders do not support bigotry of any kind and that means identifying individuals and groups that are sponsoring this hate and holding them accountable.

Unfortunately, here in my home state of North Carolina, the Foundation for the Carolinas has spent tens of millions of dollars over the years supporting groups that sponsor hate and advance this anti-immigration and population control agenda that threatens our communities. All immigrants should be treated fairly and equally without discrimination.

Behind a veil of anonymity created by the Foundation, donors who support this organization are able to indirectly fund extremist groups without any public accountability. The Foundation prides itself on—and even advertises—donor anonymity as a reason to contribute to the foundation.