Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist is a love story, and a blueprint of the current state of politics in America. It is a story about converting from hatred to love, a story about transformation from one type of leadership to another. It’s a true story about relationships, politics, and the politics of hatred. It’s a true story of acceptance and of harnessing ones soul to integrity, no matter where that path leads to.
I first heard of this book when I met a friend who was sitting outside reading it at the time, and her reason for reading it was to learn about how this young person, who was the elite of the white nationalist/white supremacist/anti-Semitic/holocaust denial movement, changed his ways as a result of being invited to Shabat dinners. It sounded like a fairy tale, but I had to read the book. Could such a thing happen? How could such a thing happen?
Derek Black, son of KKK Grand Wizard Don and Chloe Black, and godson of David Duke, KKK leader, was a new freshman and alone on at New College, Florida. Among the first people who reached out to Derek, unaware of his personal background and history, was a Hispanic, who invited to join in the regular Friday night Shabat dinners run by several orthodox Jews there at the college. Derek quickly became accepted by this diverse group of people who would scorn white supremacist ideology, and none of whom knew he was the creator of Stormfront.org. They also had no idea that each day Derek would run off campus to broadcast his white supremacist radio show. Over time, Derek, named by his parents Don and Chloe after Theodoric the Great, Germanic Visogoth conquerer of Italy and the Frankish night Roland, even began to date a Jewish woman whom he had met at these Shabat dinners.
Through a series of events, began to question many of his long held beliefs – and things heat up when one of the students discovers that this Derek Black is the same Derek Black from Stormfront. There’s an amazing story to be told how the students handle this news, some continuing to reach out to him, some advocating for shunning him. It’s the group of students who decide to continue to reach out to him who ultimately help him to see through many of the inhumanity of many of the “facts” that Derek was raised with.
How these students interact with Derek, and keep the connections, how Derek continues to value their friendships and question his own beliefs and the beliefs of his entire family structure is fascinating and something we all can learn from. How Derek faces and confronts the fallout from his white supremacist family and the risk of losing deep family connection due to his new identity should give anybody strength who has to challenge long-held beliefs and risk the loss of such relationships.
That said, this book is amazing.Eli Saslow literally accompanied Derek on family trips and was shown the emails sent between his friends and him as they engaged him on his ideas and his identity.
Rising Out of Hatred reveals the dark underbelly of white supremacist ideology, and how Derek himself admits and exposes how the Trump administration energized it and a plethora of conspiracy theories, and gave the white supremacist and alt-right movements new oxygen, how it got “smart” and modified the rhetoric of its hateful ideology to seem more palatable and mainstream to the easily duped American public: Derek and his parents were at the fore of these strategies: deciding it would be good PR to replace the white KKK robes for business suits, and substitute the term “white nationalism” for what it truly believed in, white supremacy, and more. They masterminded a strategy to appear less hateful toward others than they truly are, and to engage the support and sympathy of larger masses of Americans.
This book, so beautifully written, which dives deep into the heart and soul of these relationships that first structured Derek’s thinking and behaviors, and that later the self-reflection that opened Derek’s world and mind, can open ours as well.
Would that the rest of our country behave similarly and we have true engagement of ideas and strength of character.