#2. Somehow, Jail Is Less Racist Than the Outside World
In prison, they were worried about me getting messed up by non-Nazi inmates, so they stuck me in solitary. And this is where I found God: "Dear God," I'd pray, "please kill all the guards and let me escape." When that didn't happen, I started fasting, because I had it in my head that if I fasted for a week, God would show up and kill everyone and I could leave. I was so confident that when they asked me when I was gonna start eating again, I'd say, "Yeah, I'll start eating on Monday." And I said it in the most ominous way possible, because I figured that by Monday they'd have all been killed by God.
Once I did get out of solitary (without the help of any divine smiting), I started hanging out with Aryan Nation guys ... and playing football with some black gangbangers.
Though quite a few shankings result from arguments over whether the defender got both hands on the runner.
That probably sounds impossible, but everybody makes exceptions now and then -- what vegetarian hasn't splurged on a cheeseburger? My Aryan friends didn't mind that I was hanging out with the blacks because, well, I was way better at football than I was at not-being-a-thug-racist-dick, and the old white dudes liked seeing me kick their asses. There was no great breakthrough where I suddenly saw how ignorant I was being -- over time I just found I was better friends with the Vice Lords than I was with my white "brothers." When my girlfriend gave birth to my daughter -- probably the greatest moment of my life -- I told my black friends first. I knew my "brothers" would've started talking about how she was gonna lose that pregnancy weight and start banging other guys, and I hated that shit. Their racial purity was overshadowed by the fact that they were dicks.
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Honestly, the haircut should have foreshadowed the dickhead thing.
A while later I got out of prison, and the O.J. Simpson trial happened, and that ended up being my turning point. See, the O.J. Simpson trial got me really interested in DNA, and when I started researching it, I discovered that DNA provides the blueprint for our entire lives, and that at a genetic level there is no significant difference between races -- you can have far greater differences between two members of the same race. Everything I'd ever been taught by the movement was that we were all different, fundamentally, as if we weren't even the same species. But now here's this science -- this real, hard science -- that says that's all bullshit. A collective lie we tell ourselves to unleash our shittiest impulses.
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See also: Westboro Baptist Church vs. gay people.
I didn't leave the skinheads right then, but that was the beginning. The end came when I realized ...
#1. All Racists Make Exceptions, and Some Actually Learn From It
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Now, if you're expecting some corny story where I meet a member of a minority who shows me kindness and changes my life forever ... that's good, because that's what you're going to get.
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And goddammit, you're going to feel moved.
Finding work is tough for any ex-con, but it doesn't get any easier when you have a swastika tattoo on your neck. The only guy who would hire me was, ironically, this incredibly Jewish guy named Keith -- if we made a sitcom about my life, he'd be played by Jerry Stiller. He hired me to move furniture for $100 a day, and after I worked for three days, I was ready for him to screw me over. I remember standing there, just thinking over everything I'd ever learned about how cheap and deceitful Jews were. Then he walked up, counted out the money, looked at me, and said, "You know what? You're a damn good worker, Frank. Have an extra $100."
I was even more pissed than if he'd tried to cheat me. But the worst insult was when he hired me full time. This all made me angry because, frankly, I didn't know how else to react. Kindness was new and scary. Here's an important secret: All us juvey kids grew up thinking we were dumb. I was told I was dumb my whole life, by my stepdad, by the cops, by myself, and it stuck. I believed it, so whenever I'd mess up working with Keith, my first reaction was to say how stupid I was. Until one day I broke this big expensive marble-top table, and I said to Keith, "I'm sorry, man, I'm so stupid, I'm sorry."
And he interrupted me: "Stop saying you're dumb, you fucking idiot."
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"Besides, have you seen that fucking thing? You did them a favor."
Then he started talking about me. He said I worked hard. He said I was reliable. He said I was smart. And I was blown away, because all I could think about was how much I looked up to this guy, how much I wanted to be like him someday -- this old Jewish guy who was everything I'd ever taught myself to hate. I was blown away by this entire speech he gave about how much he respected me -- me -- and then he ended it with: "You know who you remind me of, Frank? You remind me of me."
That's when I knew I was done beating my head against the wall. What you have to understand is that every racist, or anyone who belongs to some kind of hate movement, makes exceptions. Because you make stereotypes about people, and then you meet one, and that one is always the exception: "All women are bitches, except Jessica, she's cool." Or "All black people are n*****s, except Ronny, because I work with Ronny and he is a good guy -- oh yeah, and Maurice, I went to school with him, and he was just like me, too." For a while Keith was my exception. And then he just ... wasn't.
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And that's how you really stop feeling dumb.
The driving power behind these movements is fear: fear of inadequacy, fear of being forgotten, fear of not mattering. And as hard as we tried to scare people, no one was ever more scared than we were. Hate is just repackaged fear, and if you tear away the layers of a hateful person, you'll usually find a scared little kid in there.
For more insider stories, check out 8 Terrifying Life Lessons From a Former Terrorist and 5 Insane Things I Learned About Drugs as an Undercover Agent.
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