The SPLC Suddenly Cares About Blackface, Now That a Republican Did It

Kay Ivey news conference in alabama

On Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey (R-Ala.) apologized for having worn blackface in college — despite saying she did not recall the incident. Her apology came months after Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) apologized for his yearbook photo featuring someone in blackface and someone in a Ku Klux Klan hood. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a far-left smear factory that uses its past victories against the KKK to raise money and brand its political opponents "hate groups," did not condemn Northam but rushed to condemn Ivey.

On Saturday, the SPLC's interim president, Karen Baynes-Dunning, posted a statement entitled, "Gov. Kay Ivey's hurtful history and the way forward."

"Alabama Governor Kay Ivey joins a growing list of elected leaders forced to admit that they once painted their faces black and performed racist skits or minstrel shows," Dunning began. "Her qualified apology that she did not recall doing it, while pledging to do all she can 'to help show the nation that the Alabama of today is a fair cry from the Alabama of the 1960s,' only amplifies the problems facing our nation."

"The damage of the past has been done and cannot be undone by simply apologizing and promising to act differently in the future. Our country needs to reconcile our racist past before we deliberately work to heal the wounds it has caused for so many of us," she added. "Governor Ivey's actions — whether they happened 52 years ago or today — are painful to millions of people across the country who have been systematically dehumanized and discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity."

Then the SPLC interim president made a truly bizarre suggestion: "the rise in hate incidents on high school and college campuses across the country contradicts the response of some elected officials that Governor Ivey's actions were just 'youthful indiscretions' of a college student in 1967."

"But 52 years after Governor Ivey donned black face for a college skit, people of color in our country continue to be mocked, parodied, and marginalized by fellow Americans and so-called political leaders at all levels," Baynes-Dunning added. She claimed "this will never change" until "we hold our government leaders accountable for ensuring that these racist ideals do not get codified in policies and laws."

The SPLC interim president got even more explicit: "And now the past actions of our current governor along with the draconian abortion bill that she signed and her pandering to an abhorrent political agenda that promotes racist legislation threaten to take the state of Alabama and its reputation backward."

Naturally, Baynes-Dunning ended her novel with a shout-out to the SPLC, an organization which fired its co-founder in March amid allegations of racial discrimination and sexual harassment. "We must do more to uplift the voices and actions of people in Alabama who are fighting against hate and bigotry. Every day, as the interim president of the SPLC, I have the honor of serving more than 365 staff who are dedicating their lives to upholding the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion."

This long excoriation of Kay Ivey is remarkably different from the SPLC's response to the Ralph Northam scandal.

When news broke that Northam's medical school yearbook page included a photo of one man in blackface and another in a KKK hood, Northam did not deny it at first. On February 1, he said, "I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now." He later insisted that "this is the first time I have really seen that picture." In May, an independent review confirmed that the photo was not placed on his page in error, although it could not confirm either man in the photo as Northam.

Yet the SPLC remained silent when the news broke. The SPLC remained silent when Northam contradicted his initial apology. The group also remained silent when Northam admitted to having done impressions of Michael Jackson.

Indeed, a search for Northam on the SPLC website brings up three articles, two of which note that Northam declared a state of emergency for the anniversary of the Charlottesville riots and one of which noted Northam's veto of an anti-sanctuary state measure.

The SPLC did mention Northam's blackface scandal in one tweet — but only referencing it as the background for a report on a white supremacist tattoo.

Note the SPLC's rank hypocrisy: When a Democrat governor appears in a blackface and KKK photo, the organization that bankrupted the KKK is silent. When a Republican governor reportedly wore blackface in college 50 years ago, the interim president writes a Jeremiad.

Democrat blackface and KKK hoods are not worth remarking upon. Republican blackface is "painful to millions of people across the country who have been systematically dehumanized and discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity."

Democrat blackface can be ignored. Republican blackface cannot be dismissed as a "youthful indiscretion" because of "the rise in hate incidents on high school and college campuses across the country." (Never mind the fact that the SPLC routinely ignores the hate incidents connected to the BDS movement on college campuses.)

The SPLC is well-known for partisan attacks on Republicans and conservatives — especially on President Donald Trump — but this seems a new low, even for them. In his lawsuit against the SPLC, Baltimore lawyer Glen Allen asked for a court judgment against the group's tax-exempt status on the grounds that it frequently attacks Republicans, unbefitting a 501c3 organization. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has asked the IRS to open an investigation into that tax-exempt status.

This turn of events only bolsters their arguments.

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.