America finds itself in a moment of political polarization. At times, nonprofits can reflect or even magnify that polarization. This is a recurring theme even within the non-profit sector and expressing disagreements on challenging topics.
Some people do abuse nonprofit status to spread hateful rhetoric. There have been witnessed overwhelming evidence that hateful agendas have been pushed by individuals within nonprofit organizations. That hostility can yield tragic consequences: The FBI documents thousands of hate crimes each year, with most directed against vulnerable people in marginalized communities.
But there are rare cases where the nonprofit form is abused by those with hateful agendas. At GuideStar, we have heard a rising demand from our users for information on hate groups — which I’ll (imperfectly) define as those organizations that denigrate a group of people based on their identity.
Given that concern, in February we began to flag the profiles of 46 organizations that had been designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In the weeks and months since, we have heard from both supporters and critics of the center’s approach. We acknowledge that there is a deep and difficult conversation to be had with Americans of all political, cultural, and religious backgrounds about how to most appropriately identify hate groups. That is a line not easily drawn.
Over the last couple of weeks there is interest on if there is an option for mediation and what that role would look like.
We don’t know if there is, or if GuideStar would even be the right organization to play that role. But we all must seek to climb out of our echo chambers and engage with those who have different views.We need a new kind of conversation about hate in the nonprofit sphere.
One thing is very clear, the conversation about hate in the nonprofit sphere needs improvement.
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