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Eulogy for a White Supremacist in Michigan: MLive downplays the role that John Tanton played in nurturing the current anti-Immigrant and White Supremacist climate in the US

July 23, 2019

On Thursday, July 18, MLive ran an article about the death of John Tanton. The MLive article acknowledges that Tanton was the founder of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and was referred to in the article as an anti-immigration activist. 

The article also mentions that Tanton, “also held leadership positions as president of Zero Population Growth, chairman of the Sierra Club’s National Population Committee, founder of Northern Michigan Planned Parenthood Association and has been active in Negative Population Growth, Inc.”

However, the short article focuses on Tanton’s views about immigration and even provides a link to an essay he wrote in 1975. The article cites the current president of FAIR and an immigration lawyer, to fulfill the “balanced coverage” aspect of the article. However, the MLive story barely scratches the surface in terms of where Tanton stood on immigration policy nor the deeply white supremacist views he held, which influenced his decision to start more than a dozen far right groups during his lifetime.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform is not just an organization that opposes the increase of immigrants coming into the US, they are opposed to people who are coming from countries that are part of the global south. The Southern Poverty Law Center refers to FAIR as a hate group and has long been linked to racist ideas — “fretting about the ‘educability’ of Latinos, warning of whites being out-bred by others, and publishing a number of white nationalist authors” — and is also closely affiliated with a number of white supremacist organizations such as the Pioneer Fund.

The Pioneer Fund help to pass the racist Prop 187 in California in 1994. FAIR had received a total about $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund,  which primarily funds race and IQ studies intended to reveal the inferiority of minorities and to this day describes its grant recipients, generally, as “race realists.” However, this kind of research is nothing more than eugenics, which white supremacists have used for more than a century in an attempt to prove the intellectual superiority of white people.

After creating FAIR, Tanton went on the help found numerous other organizations that would embrace a white supremacist ideology summed up by Tanton himself, who said:

“I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.”

Some of the groups that Tanton was involved with are NumbersUSA, ProEnglish, Social Contract Press, American Alliance for Rights and Responsibility, Center for Immigration Studies and US English.

Last year in Michigan, groups like US English help to push English as an official language, when several GOP State Representatives proposed legislation to make English the official language in Michigan. US English has been attempting to do the same in states across the country and it used to be a recipient of funding from the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation. In fact, Helen DeVos used to be on the advisory board of US English.

It is unfortunate that the MLive story on the passing of John Tanton did not provide a more accurate and more in depth look at a man who was not just anti-immigrant, but someone who embraced deeply white supremacist values that spawned a multitude of groups in the US. Tanton was said in a 1986 article, “To govern is to populate. Will the present majority peaceably hand over its political power to a group that simply more fertile? As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? Or will there be an explosion?

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