Southern Poverty Law Center founder will address diversity issues and domestic terrorism
Just last month, the whole nation was reeling in the aftermath of a senseless act of domestic terrorism that left nine innocent people dead in Charleston, South Carolina. We took to every corner of the internet to express our shock and anger. We delivered messages of support and justice.
But then the Affordable Care Act was upheld, the gay marriage ruling was announced and there was a really great sale at Target. In a society where a constant influx of information has mandated a kind of consolidated and expedited grieving process, it is easy for us to forget the people tackling these high-profile issues on a daily basis, whether CNN is paying attention or not.
Morris Dees is one of those people. For the past 55 years, Dees has been engaged in the fight for civil rights. The acclaimed civil rights lawyer was born to tenant cotton farmers in 1936. After a short stint in publishing while studying at the University of Alabama, Dees decided his time and resources would be best used in the courtroom.
The call for equal rights was one he could get behind, and he jumped in with both feet, co-founding the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1971 in Montgomery, Alabama. The center focuses on civil rights cases, hate groups and racism.
The fight against white supremacy and domestic terrorism started early for Dees, whose most memorable court win was a 1981 civil case against the Ku Klux Klan that left the extremist group bankrupt.
Though the landscape of these crimes has changed, Dees believes white supremacy has gained global influence, and domestic terrorism still isn’t given the attention it merits. That’s what he works on now, drawing the attention of law enforcement officers and government officials to the growing threat white supremacists pose.
Dees offers training courses for law enforcement officers that better prepare them to spot terrorists like Dylan Roof on the street. He said domestic terrorists often go undetected because police officers are not trained to spot them.
“The only way we can fight global white supremacy is to do the best we can here. First, we try to get the Department of Homeland Security to take domestic terrorist groups seriously. We don’t take domestic terrorists seriously. We like to say ‘Oh, that was just one idiot,’ but there have been more Americans killed by domestic terrorists than foreign terrorists since 9/11,” Dees said.
He recently testified before Congress in an attempt to point out the “unfinished business of the civil rights movement.”
Dees will be speaking on the changing racial structure of America at the 2015 First Amendment Dinner hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga on July 14. He plans to focus on “where we are and where we are going from here,” in terms of population diversity and its ramifications.
The dinner is open to people of all faiths and reservations can be made by contacting the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga at (423) 493-0270 or firstname.lastname@example.org