The New Tolerance Campaign is mobilizing its members to tell AmazonSmile to stop relying on the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to determine who can and cannot participate in the program.
AmazonSmile gives its shoppers the option to direct .5% of every purchase to the charity of their choice. Any 501c3 non-profit can participate with one exception: those who have been designated hate groups by the SPLC. From the website:
Organizations that engage in, support, encourage, or promote intolerance, hate, terrorism, violence, money laundering, or other illegal activities are not eligible to participate. Amazon relies on the US Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Southern Poverty Law Center to determine which registered charities fall into these groups.
The SPLC has an admirable history of fighting truly bigoted groups like the KKK, and they are the only well-established group that even offers a blacklist of “hateful” organizations. However, they are also a poor choice as the sole non-government arbiter of who is and isn’t too problematic for Amazon due to serious outstanding questions about the organization’s more recent moral authority.
The SPLC has a habit of looking through an ideological lens that leads it to be harsher on those on the other side of the spectrum. In 2017, charity database GuideStar adopted and then quickly abandoned the SPLC’s hate classification, saying they themselves were driven by their “commitment to objectivity” and that they had received many reasonable concerns about the SPLC’s list.
More recent reports from SPLC employees about sexist and racist treatment within the organization caused a serious shakeup at the top, contributing to the resignation of SPLC President Richard Cohen and, before him, the firing of co-founder Morris Dees. In response to these actions, SPLC staffers raised flags that they were still broadly concerned with the “widespread pattern of racial and gender discrimination by the center’s current leadership, stretching back many years.”
The SPLC also has a troubling history of leveraging lawsuits that net tens of thousands it secures for their clients to raise tens of millions for itself. They’ve stashed some of their millions in Cayman Islands bank accounts – curious behavior for a “poverty” non-profit. Former SPLC employee Bob Moser relayed an anecdote in The New Yorker that he and his former colleagues used to translate a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote etched an SPLC wall from “Until justice rolls down like waters” into “Until justice rolls down like dollars.”
By relying on the SPLC, AmazonSmile lets organizations through that don’t register on the SPLC’s list but have a history of questionable actions. Some have already complained about right-wing sting group Project Veritas’s inclusion in the program. Two groups commemorating the Black Panther Party are included. And People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), famous for dousing people in fake blood and creating a video game where players beat up scientists, can also receive donations.
Facilitating charity is a fundamentally good thing, but it is problematic that the group Amazon chose to do the screening of charities for them has a troubling record of failing to be objective and morally consistent themselves. NTC is calling on Amazon to stop relying on the SPLC, establish their own criteria, and apply it evenly.
About the New Tolerance Campaign: NTC promotes “unbiased tolerance” by encouraging organizations, businesses, schools, and government agencies to maintain clear standards of acceptable conduct.