R. Derek Black’s Journey from White Nationalist to Antiracist

R. Derek Black Headshot with text: R. Derek Black's Journey from White Nationalist to Antiracist

On June 27, Ƶ hosted a compelling talk on its platform, featuring guest host from the . Segal engaged in a profound conversation with former white supremacist , who was raised in the world of white nationalism. Black shared their unique insights into the ideology from within and discussed their efforts to help others understand and dismantle racism and hateful extremism.  

Growing up, Black’s world revolved around white nationalism. The movement provided a strong sense of belonging and a shared identity. However, as Black formed friendships outside their immediate family and attended university at the a sense of fear emerged, “I swapped my middle and 1st names. I went to grad school. I hoped that I would never be asked about this. My roommates did not know. About, you know, how I’d grown up or my activism.”  

The rise of white nationalist rhetoric during the Trump campaign and the events of served as a wake-up call for Black. They felt a responsibility to share their story and shed light on the dangers of extremism. Black’s book, delves into their life’s journey and into the factors that draw people into white nationalism, and how they intend to combat it. 

“People find this movement usually in their teens or twenties…and it becomes a major part of their identity…it's not just racism, it's not just anti-Semitism, it's a specific social movement, it's white nationalism or white power,” Black explains, “It's an international movement. It's not one with membership. It's something that draws from all of those ideologies and that's what fuels it. Black’s book emphasizes the importance of fostering connections across divides, creating a sense of belonging that isn't built on hatred. 

During the interview, Black is confronted with an audience member question about the first time they heard about the . For the first time in the interview, Black is stumped, falling over their words, only to realize that they have never been asked that question before and that their experience in elementary school up until the third grade introduced them to the children of Holocaust survivors in Palm Beach, where almost 20% of the population was Jewish. Due to hearing the stories of Holocaust survivors as a child, Black shared that they “disliked Holocaust denial” that was coming from their family and community at home and could not reconcile with what was being taught at home versus what they were learning in school. 

This blog post only scratches the surface of Derek Black's powerful story. If you're interested in learning more about their journey and their insights on white nationalism, be sure to check out their book, The Klansman’s Son and watch the full . Experience the transformative power of knowledge with AJU Open’s captivating free online events and adult education classes. Our faculty and friends share their valuable insights, sparking thought-provoking discussions and engaging dialogue.

 

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