My name is Bryan Fair. I’m an African-American professor of constitutional law.
I’m also the chair of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s board of directors, and, like my fellow board members, I serve without compensation. I serve for one reason and one reason alone: I believe in the SPLC’s work. Because of your support, right now:
- We’re suing in federal court to block a cruel Trump administration scheme that will strip Medicaid coverage from more than 100,000 low-income people in Arkansas and Kentucky.
- We’re suing a private, for-profit prison company that’s fattening its bottom line by forcing detained immigrants to cook, clean, and maintain its prison for as little as $1 day.
- We’re launching a new voting rights campaign to challenge racially discriminatory laws and to increase voter engagement in Deep South communities that have long been marginalized.
- We’re in the middle of a multiyear legal battle against Alabama to stop the barbaric treatment of people in prisons who have mental illness and to ensure that all people incarcerated by the state have access to proper medical care.
- We’ve launched multiple federal court challenges to the Trump administration’s immigration policies and its assault on our asylum system, including the policy of detaining children for long periods to use as bait to deport potential sponsors.
- We’re fighting a series of cases to stop the shocking abuses of poor people who are being exploited in the justice system with excessive fees and fines.
- We're fighting to ban “conversion therapy,” a dangerous and discredited practice based on the false premise that being gay or transgender is a disorder that should be cured.
- We’re providing free classroom resources to every school in the country to counter the increase in bullying and harassment, and the anxiety among students of color that teachers have reported to us since the 2016 election.
- We’re providing educators and schools with grants to empower them to kick off projects that improve school climates and help students thrive in a diverse society.
- We’re conducting face-to-face trainings across the country for teachers to help them implement anti-bias instruction in their classrooms.
- We’re successfully pressuring Silicon Valley companies to remove far-right extremists from internet platforms that help them raise money, recruit members, and spread radicalizing propaganda that stokes violence — such as the attacks on Muslims, Jews, and others we saw on the eve of the midterms and in New Zealand.
- We’re pushing back against the alarming increase in hate groups — now a record number — and the resurgent white supremacist movement in our country.
- We’re launching a campaign to remove Confederate monuments — symbols of white supremacy — on public grounds and educate students about the continuing legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.
We’re doing this work because countless people continue to face discrimination and exploitation. They deserve justice. I resent the suggestion that we’re doing it merely for fundraising purposes, as some have said. I would not be serving on the board if this were true, and I know that Julian Bond, a true civil rights icon, would not have served on our board for many years had he thought that the organization took on cases and causes for the wrong reasons.
We deeply appreciate the support we receive from people around the country who believe in the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity. We’re excellent stewards of our funds and are committed to transparency. That’s one of the reasons why GuideStar gives us its “Platinum” ranking. Our audited financial statements are on our website for everyone to see. The salaries of our lawyers and senior staff are far lower than what they could command in the private sector.
Our financial strength allows us to stand up to formidable adversaries and to take on complex, costly federal court litigation. It has allowed us to hire more than 200 people since the 2016 election to meet the critical human rights challenges the country is facing. It has allowed us to open four new offices at detention centers in remote locations in the Deep South, in less than two years, to represent people fleeing persecution and grinding poverty in their home countries and others already here who have been caught up in President Trump’s deportation machine. Without the free legal counsel we provide, they would have no lawyers and no chance of defending themselves in court against deportation. Our endowment ensures that we’ll be able to carry on our work far into the future.
Right now, as you may have read, we’re facing some internal workplace challenges. But we’re meeting them in the same way that we’re meeting every other challenge that we face — with a fierce commitment to do justice. We’ve just launched an initiative with Tina Tchen — a former chief of staff for Michelle Obama and one of the leading voices behind the Times UP Legal Defense Fund — to advise us on workplace culture issues. Everyone who works at the SPLC deserves a workplace that reflects our highest values, and we’re committed to making sure that it happens.
As I said at the start of this letter, I serve on the SPLC’s board of directors because I believe in the work and I believe in the staff. Given the rising tide of hate and given the callousness of the Trump administration, our work is as critical as ever.
I can assure you that we will continue to work as hard as we can to combat the forces of hate and bigotry and to seek justice for the most marginalized people in our country.