When Your Friends Become Racists

Sadly, I just found out that an old friend of mine is now a spokesman for a chapter of a white supremacist group on the west coast. I will refrain from naming him or the group he works with. I will provide no links in this post. Nothing would sicken me more than to be willingly providing a portal for hate groups on my site, though the ridiculous nature of the group’s platform is worthy of a look.

My friend is an otherwise intelligent individual, though plagued with clinical psychological problems. This would lead me to forgive his foray into hate. That he is willingly being photographed carrying the flag of his group, which advocates the forced deportation of all non-white residents of the United States, makes me reconsider.

I remember a specific incident where he and I made fun of the growing number of meat headed skinheads in Southeast Michigan in the late 80’s, the memory of which makes his transformation all the more bizarre to me. At the time, my friend would have been a poor choice for a bigot.

I keep thinking about how it can be possible for one of my friends to suddenly be a spokesman, writer and organizer for a group that celebrates Adolf Hitler. Knowing my friend’s insecurities, it is perhaps not surprising.

Fringe groups, like religious groups, offer comfort. They have strict, though simple, rules for membership which dictate behavior, speech, thought and appearance. As long as you follow the rules, you are guaranteed friendship and validation. This is attractive for the marginalized and fearful. Step off the path, however, and at best, the door can be closed for good and at worst, one can be faced with violence.

Hate groups, like conspiracy theories, offer simple answers to complex problems. When a middle aged white man in America wonders why he can’t get a job and a girlfriend, it’s much easier to blame Jews or immigrants than to turn the camera inward. When a kid sees nothing in his future despite possessing a shade of skin normally associated with power, it’s far simpler to blame the defenseless rather than take the hard road to improving one’s lot.

My friend should know that “race” is a construct, created by the powerful to subjugate the weak and thereby hang on to power. As an educated individual, my friend should know that Hitler demonized the Jewish minority to unite Germany and solidify his political position. As an intelligent individual, he should recognize the intellectual failings of his new friends in hate.

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About Pete Larson

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Nagasaki University Institute for Tropical Medicine

6 responses to “When Your Friends Become Racists”

  1. mikey2ct says :

    Sadly, Pete this is a miniscule, but burgeoning problem I spent most of ’62 and part of ’63 in US Navy school in Memphis, TN. I traveled in my off time including AR, AL, MS, and FL. i was appalled by the public attitude toward racism. Civil rights legislation, education and hate crime initiatives have helped alleviate some problems. A recent example of a hate crime at it’s worst is the Sikh temple shooting.

  2. markmaynard says :

    I hope this isn’t anyone I know. We’ll have to talk about it tomorrow, over lunch.

  3. TeacherPatti says :

    I’m jealous you two are having lunch again without me!
    Seriously, I don’t understand how one just becomes racist. Did something specific happen? As you mention, it seems not uncommon for men who can’t get laid to decide “wimmins are the bitchez!1!!11!” (instead of looking inward to their fat, unbathed selves); perhaps that is what happened? Did he lose out on something/someone and is blaming blacks?
    Sorry, trying to make sense of something that is nonsensical.

  4. teacherpatti says :

    I\’m jealous you two are having lunch again without me!
    Seriously, I don\’t understand how one just becomes racist. Did something specific happen? As you mention, it seems not uncommon for men who can\’t get laid to decide \”wimmins are the bitchez!1!!11!\” (instead of looking inward to their fat, unbathed selves); perhaps that is what happened? Did he lose out on something/someone and is blaming blacks?
    Sorry, trying to make sense of something that is nonsensical.

    • Pete Larson says :

      I just watched a video of him speaking with a reporter at a white power event. He appears entirely lucid the whole time, claiming to work to remove the stigma of National Socialism in US politics. One thing I did note, is that he is a raging anti-Semite (rather than hating blacks), mentioning a popular anti-Semitic text, “The Holocaust Industry.”

      It’s hard to figure him out. On the one hand, he appears to be trying to stick up for a marginalized group and give them a voice, which would be very like him, on the other, he seems to have bought in to stock Jew-hating conspiracy nonsense.

      The frightening part is that he’s quite well educated, and probably does well as a spokesman. I do know that he is quite insecure, and prone to depression. It’s really an awful combination, brains and mental illness. He clearly holds a significant amount of power over the morons (they get interviewed, too) he’s surrounded himself with. On the other hand, he’s really quite scatterbrained. A eloquent, though likely awful, leader.

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