Monday, October 29, 2018

Eli Saslow's Rising Out of Hatred

Eli Saslow's Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist (2018) is the compelling story of a young white supremacist, the son of Stormfront's creator*, who was an up-and-coming star of the racist world until he went to college and gradually renounced all of his former views. It is both inspiring and less than inspiring, the former because getting an education and getting to know people different from you can make a big difference. The latter because his profile, that of a highly intelligent, open-minded, rational white supremacist is, I think it is fair to say, rare, and so the story is not so likely to be repeated elsewhere. Hopefully I am wrong about that or at least that there are young people who just aren't sure and the college experience helps point them in a rational direction.

There are a few important points of the book. The first by far from my perspective is that the general attack on liberal professors misses the mark entirely. For Derek Black, professors were peripheral beyond just encouraging his continued intellectual curiosity. What mattered was getting out of his bubble and meeting people from very different backgrounds: race, religion, national origin, etc. He was at a very liberal school, New College of Florida, where his family assumed he could get mainstream bona fides while reinforcing his racist views. They were wrong. This is why diversity matters--hearing people other than yourself is transformational.

Along those lines, David Duke (who happens to be Black's godfather) responded by saying he was a victim of Stockholm Syndrome, whereby he had been a captive of liberal higher education and now identified with his captors. It is a reminder of how dangerous education is to white supremacists. The truth is that when Black started researching his passion--medieval history--he discovered the vast majority of his assumptions of that era, especially in terms of how race was perceived at the time, were wrong.

Further, Black decided to finally accept telling his story because of Donald Trump's election. He knew he had played some role in making it happen through his previous work normalizing racism by changing and mainstreaming the rhetoric. He heard his own previous arguments come from Trump's mouth, saw his own rhetoric in Trump's tweets. White supremacy has not been this strong and public in a long time and by Black's own words he is trying to warn people.

I shouldn't finish before mentioning the excellent accounts of how Black's renunciation affected his family relationships. His family felt betrayed. Their relationships were based almost entirely on political beliefs. They had other interests but they were all minor. If you didn't agree about white genocide then you had nothing in common. No matter what your family members' views are, this Thanksgiving dinner it might just be better not to mention politics at all.

* with a bunch of misfits his father also plotted to invade Dominica. The stupidity inherent in such a venture is amazing. It reminded me of all the 19th century filibusterers, the William Walkers of the world, whose arrogance and racism led them in invade Latin American countries.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP