I didn't leave the skinheads right then, but that was the beginning. The end came when I realized ...
All Racists Make Exceptions, and Some Actually Learn From It
Paul Thomas/Photodisc/Getty Images
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.
George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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."
David Spieth/iStock/Getty Images
"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.
Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images
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.
Do you have a story to share with Cracked? Email us here.
Share this article, and maybe together we can help other racists stop ... being racist.