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.