Philanthropy Can’t Support the Common Good When It Supports White Supremacy (Letter to the Editor)
To the Editor:
Recently, the Chronicle of Philanthropy posted on its website a podcast featuring Mark Krikorian, executive director of an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center deemed to be an anti-immigrant hate group. Following the 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Tex., that targeted people of Mexican descent, Krikorian praised the shooter’s manifesto as “remarkably well written for a 21-year-old loner.” When a senior policy analyst at Krikorian’s organization told a Tea Party group that
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To the Editor:
Recently, the Chronicle of Philanthropy posted on its website a podcast featuring Mark Krikorian, executive director of an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center deemed to be an anti-immigrant hate group. Following the 2019 mass shooting in El Paso, Tex., that targeted people of Mexican descent, Krikorian praised the shooter’s manifesto as “remarkably well written for a 21-year-old loner.” When a senior policy analyst at Krikorian’s organization told a Tea Party group that “being hung, drawn, and quartered is probably too good for” then-President Obama,” Krikorian observed that the employee “sometimes has used impolitic language” and said that “I admonished him to choose his words more carefully in the future.”
After public outcry at the decision to promote Krikorian’s organization on the website of a revered publication committed to providing people with “indispensable information and practical advice they need to help them change the world” — presumably for the better — the Chronicle added an editor’s note acknowledging that the piece “lacked the type of journalistic rigor we value.”
But days later, the Chronicle published a letter from John F. Rohe, vice president of the Colcom Foundation, pointing to the backlash as apparent evidence of our inability to have “a respectful exchange” about immigration policy. Krikorian once wrote that he believed “Haiti’s so screwed up because it wasn’t colonized long enough” and that if the people of Haiti hadn’t won their freedom through rebellion, they could have “develop[ed] a local culture significantly shaped by the more advanced civilization of the colonizers.” Is that the kind of Krikorian contribution that Rohe believes would elevate the discourse and allow for a conversation not “marred by racial bias,” as his letter says he desires?
That Colcom would come to Krikorian’s defense is no surprise — after all, Colcom has substantially bankrolled the anti-immigrant movement for 15 years, including organizations like VDare that unapologetically publish and promote white supremacist content. Many of the foundation’s grants appear to faithfully reflect the beliefs of its founder, Cordelia Scaife May, who “believed that the United States was ‘being invaded on all fronts’ by foreigners, who ‘breed like hamsters.’ ” Many groups in this network were founded by John Tanton, who once wrote to a prominent donor: “One of my prime concerns is about the decline of folks who look like you and me” and warned another friend that “for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European American majority, and a clear one at that.”
The mainstreaming of white supremacist ideology over the past several years is one of the great challenges of our time. In recent days, internal draft reports from the Department of Homeland Security confirmed what has become increasingly clear: White supremacists today pose the greatest and most lethal terror threat facing the country. The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented that the number of white nationalist groups in the country reached 155 in 2019, an increase of 55 percent from 2017. When Krikorian’s organization sued the group’s leaders for designating his organization a hate group, a federal district court judge dismissed the suit, noting that “the complaint is devoid of any allegation that defendants made a statement that was false.” That judgment was affirmed by the court of appeals and Krikorian’s organization has requested that the Supreme Court review the matter.
As the country begins to confront racial injustice and systemic oppression, publications like the Chronicle of Philanthropy must reflect on the role of philanthropy itself in promoting, funding, and sustaining organizations committed to white supremacy. A number of these groups, which sometimes enjoy a veneer of acceptability and policy-focused advocacy, are rooted in racist theories of eugenics and population control and seek to demonize and dehumanize immigrants as a threat. They are at the vanguard of division and nationalism, yet they have long enjoyed ample support from the philanthropic community. It is time for that to end.
Vice President of Immigration Policy
Center for American Progress
Founder and Executive Director