The Southern Poverty Law Center has got to be one of the most ironic places on the planet. It’s incredible enough that not one of “the nation’s leading civil rights organization’s” top executives is a minority, and that this deplorable situation has existed for the entire 40-year history of the SPLC, so it’s probably not much of a shock to learn that the SPLC’s “educational outreach” division has been led by “whites only” for 19 of its 20-year history too.
“Teaching Tolerance” created in 1991 “is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children,” according to the current TT web site.
An earlier iteration of the TT homepage, from 1998, claims:
“In 1991, Teaching Tolerance began supporting the efforts of K-12 teachers and other educators to promote respect for differences and an appreciation of diversity.“
Oddly, the term “diversity” has been removed from the organization’s current mission statement all together, perhaps because there was so little diversity to be found at Teaching Tolerance.
In 1994, Dan Morse of the Montgomery Advertiser, the SPLC’s hometown newspaper, first noted the lack of black executives at the Center. He also noted that all eight staff members of Teaching Tolerance were white, as well. The Advertiser ran a follow-up story two-years later, noting that nothing had changed in the SPLC’s Executive Suite.
Teaching Tolerance’s first director was Sara Bullard, and while we were unable to find a photo of Ms. Bullard, her tenure included the years covered by the Montgomery Advertiser stories. If anyone has a photo of Ms. Bullard, please pass it along to Watching the Watchdogs and we’ll be happy to include it in this post.
Ms. Bullard was followed by Jim Carnes, sometime around 1997:
Mr. Carnes was succeeded by Jennifer Holladay, who served as Director from roughly 2002-2008:
When Ms. Holladay received a six-digit promotion in 2009, she was replaced by interim Director Lecia Brooks:
Ms. Brooks served for about a year before becoming Director of SPLC’s Civil Rights Memorial Center, a position that does not appear among the six-digit salaries of the SPLC’s top executives.
Ms. Brooks made way for Teaching Tolerance’s current director, Maureen Costello:
So much for diversity at Teaching Tolerance.
Ironically, (there’s that word again…), one of Teaching Tolerance’s flagship efforts is its annual “Mix it Up at School Day,” which encourages K-12 kids to sit with someone new in the school cafeteria. A noble and worthwhile experiment without doubt, but one has to wonder with whom do the all-white executives of the SPLC and Teaching Tolerance mix it up? “Do as we say, not as we do…”
One final note, the Teaching Tolerance home page brags about the many awards garnered by its “teaching materials”:
“Our teaching materials have won two Oscars, an Emmy and more than 20 honors from the Association of Educational Publishers, including two Golden Lamp Awards, the industry’s highest honor.“
As noted in an earlier WTW post, the Association of Educational Publishers is a public relations outfit. Non-profits are encouraged to join the association in order to “stand out in a crowded marketplace” and “maximize your ROI [return on investment]“
According to the AEP, “Industry awards are surefire way to give your product and your brand a one-up over your competitors.“
Your membership in the AEP entitles you to a 50% discount on entry fees for the awards! You actually have to pay cash, (from the donation pot, no doubt) to “enter” the contest against other “entrants” who also paid for the privilege of “competing.” Now there’s a wide field of contenders. What if no one else paid to enter your particular event? Instant winner!
Well, the TT page does call it “the industry’s highest honor, and that’s pretty much what Teaching Tolerance is all about… maximizing ROI for the white millionaires who run the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Teaching Tolerance does not list its editorial staff on its web site and never has, (for obvious reasons, no doubt). Therefore the names and dates for this post had to be gleaned from archived publications and web sites, mostly created by the SPLC.
If anyone knows of any errors or omissions in the Teaching Tolerance timeline presented here, please notify Watching the Watchdogs and we will correct the matter immediately.