Wednesday, May 27, 2009

StrHate Talk

Not too long ago, this dude TJ Leyden came through to a spot I work at to talk about his life experiences. Of course, anyone can do that for the most part, but the "unique" or "un unique" (If that's a word) thing about him is the fact that he is a reformed Skinhead. He talked about the various groups within the White Power movement, his experience within it, and what moved him to not only separate from the movement, but also what made him speak out against it and aid the Jewish community in the abolishment of the White Power movement. Those of you who know me probably are well aware that he was going to need to say some really convincing stuff for me to fully believe him. Even now my melanin has me remaining somewhat weary, but for the most part I was able to rock with what he was presenting to the college community. Here's a not so brief, but interesting take on his book and life from Larry Keller for the Intelligence Report:

In Skinhead Confessions: From Hate to Hope, Leyden writes about that attraction and his own prowess at exploiting kids' vulnerabilities while recruiting them into the movement. That's half of the story. The other half is how he rejected the hate and violence he so ardently embraced, making it his life's mission to warn off students as well as teach cops, military personnel and educators how to spot hard-core racists in their midst.

The second half is the more compelling reading. That's partly because what little Leyden reveals of the violence he saw and participated in is oddly vague and bloodless. He earned two SS lightning bolt tattoos on his neck for stabbing "a kid who was at the wrong place at the wrong time." He "enforced whatever leadership asked of me" and, if anybody needed to be taught a lesson, "I was the guy to do it." He doesn't elaborate, and the effect is to diminish how violent he apparently was, while at the same time telling the reader he was a real badass. If he is concerned that he could still be charged with crimes by telling too much, he should say so.

Still, Leyden provides genuinely interesting glimpses into the skinhead lifestyle he lived for 15 years that show how banal and sometimes unintentionally funny it can be. An example of the latter: At an Aryan Nations gathering in Idaho, Leyden writes that most of those attending "looked like trash" and that one group of skins beat up a guy over a pack of cigarettes. But some of the thugs attending still found time to meet for discussions of such dense subjects as the threat of the United Nations and the World Bank.

He describes his own Aryan wedding, complete with Confederate and Nazi flags on the wall. When their first son was born, Leyden and his then-wife hung a swastika over his crib. Theirs was a world of white-power baby showers, cakes adorned with swastikas, and paranoia about the coming race war and Jewish conspiracies.

More serious was Leyden's joining the Marines before he was married. There, he continued recruiting others into the skinhead movement, as he had done on the streets. He kept swastikas and racist hate literature in the barracks. He added new tattoos, including those SS bolts on his neck and S-K-I-N and H-E-A-D down the back of his arms. "I was a walking advertisement for hate in the U.S. military," Leyden writes. And the military, he says, was indifferent.

A combination of events led Leyden to finally quit the movement. It bothered him that skinheads were increasingly selling and using drugs. And after he became the father of a second boy, he began having doubts about raising his two sons to be racists. A turning point came at a children's party attended by skinheads and their children. There was a piñata for the kids to whack, but it was an effigy of a black man with a noose around its neck...

That's just a portion of it. Regardless of whether or not you like it. You have to admit that it's striking. He too has a blog and you can access it here. It talks about various current events concerning racism and the White Power movement as well as the culture.

For more info about racist groups visit the StrHATE Talk website

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