Margaret Huang has had a strong impact on the Southern Poverty Law Center since her arrival in 2020 as President and CEO at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under his leadership, the SPLC has forged a new strategic direction that allocates its resources to correcting the effects of systemic racism in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and Florida – under the principle “as the South goes, the nation too,” as the scholar WEB Du Bois said.
Huang testified in congressional hearings on threats to historically black colleges and universities and the rise of far-right extremist groups, their infiltration of mainstream politics and their direct attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
She became the public face of the SPLC.
But the pandemic has largely prevented the public from meeting her in person. So far.
In late June, Huang and members of the SPLC leadership team hosted some of the country’s most prominent journalists – all members of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) – at an intimate gathering in Washington, D.C. .
The event gave the SPLC the opportunity to showcase its in-depth research and programmatic expertise, which can inform journalists’ stories while expanding the SPLC’s public reach.
“We want to support AAPI [Asian American Pacific Islander] journalists, who bring a unique and valuable perspective to the news,” Huang said. “The idea is that we want them to turn to us when they need a quote or research to enrich their stories. [A stronger relationship] gives us a chance to reach people who may listen to an AAJA reporter when they normally wouldn’t. We all need to pay attention to this community due to recent demographic changes.
Growing AAPI population
As Huang noted, the AAPI population is the fastest growing in the country. Huang herself is the daughter of a Chinese immigrant father and a white mother whose family has been in the United States for many generations.
Between 2000 and 2019, this demographic grew by 81%, significantly more than the 70% increase within the Latinx community, according to the Pew Research Center. In the 2020 presidential election, Asian American voting rose from just under 50% in 2016 to almost 60% in 2020. This was the second highest percentage increase for all racial or ethnic groups in the country, according to an AAPI Data blog, surpassed only by Americans from the Pacific Islands, who voted 14% higher in number – rising from around 41% in 2016 to 56% in 2020.
AAJA journalists present at the event represented news outlets, including The Washington PostPolitics, Foreign Policy News, The New York TimeAl Jazeera and AARP podcast.
Huang noted that the educational and political journalists she spoke with are already using SPLC resources such as Learning for Justice’s AAPI-tolerant programs to educate the public about hate, extremist state legislative attacks. against inclusive education — a bogeyman that conservatives call “critical race theory” — and the Intelligence Project hate alertthat profiles and tracks far-right groups and leaders.
“Attacks against [so-called] critical race theory are attacks on all of American history,” Huang said. “The AAJA is one of the most active and influential journalist groups in the country. They have great respect from other journalists and they are very good at spreading information less known to other journalists.
As guests and their hosts mingled, they discussed serious topics such as the current attack on voting rights, the upcoming congressional midterm elections, and criminal justice reform. Huang and SPLC representatives answered questions about journalists’ portfolios and how the organization can help them with their research.
Nicole Dungca, investigative journalist for The Washington Postsaid the event was particularly welcome after being cut off from other reporters since 2020.
“Coming out of COVID, it’s been difficult to meet people in person,” Dungca said. “It was nice to meet other AAJA members and to be able to connect the two organizations. Both the SPLC and the AAJA share a concern for misinformation, so we want to fact check the misinformation on the AAPI community.
“I really wanted to connect, talk to people who could help with the work that we do,” she said. “The event provided a space for journalists to meet Margaret and other potential sources for them and for us. Margaret discussed the direction the SPLC is heading, such as expanding voting rights , [a topic] it’s important now and what our members will be focusing on in the next election. I know our members appreciated hearing from Margaret about the resources available to the SPLC. »
For Politico reporter Nicholas Wu, the event provided insights in an article quoting Michael Lieberman, the SPLC’s senior policy adviser on hate and extremism, on how the SPLC provides testimony and research to the committee of the January 6.
SPLC media director Araba Dowell said journalists had expressed keen interest in the organization’s efforts to tackle white nationalist narratives, as their association also prioritizes this work.
“They also noted that they recognize how central white supremacists are to the divide between the Asian community and black people – and how they need to be vigilant and conscientious about this, even in the newsroom,” he said. said Dowell. “They were also curious about how we track our impact and define success – from a data and analytics perspective. And, finally, they identified opportunities where we can work together in the future, such as their AAJA studio.
Sharing of expertise
Also in attendance was SPLC acting legal director Melvina Ford, who noted the event took place on the day former Trump administration aide Cassidy Hutchinson was testifying before the bipartisan House Committee on investigate the January 6, 2021 uprising. “I met journalists who were covering the January 6 investigation. I had missed courtroom coverage that day, and it was great to have the opportunity to hear firsthand from reporters what happened,” Ford said.
“Several reporters asked me about the types of legal cases the Center was working on, and I told them about how we were challenging reactive legislation coming out of Florida and about our litigation in Alabama on behalf of transgender children. I also told them about our other program areas including economic justice and suffrage and all around it was a great vibe that gave us all a chance to float around and get to know people.
As travel becomes easier, Huang plans to host similar social events with Black, Latino, and LGBTQ+ journalists.
“It was a nice event,” Huang said. “I managed to talk to everyone. The journalists felt appreciated for their work, but also having the SPLC’s resources of knowledge and information for their stories is incredibly valuable.
Top photo: Margaret Huang, President and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, front row, meets with members of the Asian American Journalists Association at a rally on June 28, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Imagine Photography)