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Rising Out of Hatred
Cover of Rising Out of Hatred
Rising Out of Hatred
The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist
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From a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, the powerful story of how a prominent white supremacist changed his heart and mind
Derek Black grew up at the epicenter of white nationalism. His father founded Stormfront, the largest racist community on the Internet. His godfather, David Duke, was a KKK Grand Wizard. By the time Derek turned nineteen, he had become an elected politician with his own daily radio show - already regarded as the "the leading light" of the burgeoning white nationalist movement. "We can infiltrate," Derek once told a crowd of white nationalists. "We can take the country back."
Then he went to college. Derek had been home-schooled by his parents, steeped in the culture of white supremacy, and he had rarely encountered diverse perspectives or direct outrage against his beliefs. At New College of Florida, he continued to broadcast his radio show in secret each morning, living a double life until a classmate uncovered his identity and sent an email to the entire school. "Derek Black...white supremacist, radio host...New College student???"
The ensuing uproar overtook one of the most liberal colleges in the country. Some students protested Derek's presence on campus, forcing him to reconcile for the first time with the ugliness his beliefs. Other students found the courage to reach out to him, including an Orthodox Jew who invited Derek to attend weekly Shabbat dinners. It was because of those dinners - and the wide-ranging relationships formed at that table - that Derek started to question the science, history and prejudices behind his worldview. As white nationalism infiltrated the political mainstream, Derek decided to confront the damage he had done.
Rising Out of Hatred tells the story of how white supremacist ideas migrated from the far-right fringe to the White House, through the intensely personal saga of one man who eventually disavowed everything he was taught to believe, at tremendous personal cost. With great empathy and narrative verve, Eli Saslow asks what Derek's story can tell us about America's increasingly divided nature. This is a book to help us understand the American moment and to help us better understand one another.
From a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, the powerful story of how a prominent white supremacist changed his heart and mind
Derek Black grew up at the epicenter of white nationalism. His father founded Stormfront, the largest racist community on the Internet. His godfather, David Duke, was a KKK Grand Wizard. By the time Derek turned nineteen, he had become an elected politician with his own daily radio show - already regarded as the "the leading light" of the burgeoning white nationalist movement. "We can infiltrate," Derek once told a crowd of white nationalists. "We can take the country back."
Then he went to college. Derek had been home-schooled by his parents, steeped in the culture of white supremacy, and he had rarely encountered diverse perspectives or direct outrage against his beliefs. At New College of Florida, he continued to broadcast his radio show in secret each morning, living a double life until a classmate uncovered his identity and sent an email to the entire school. "Derek Black...white supremacist, radio host...New College student???"
The ensuing uproar overtook one of the most liberal colleges in the country. Some students protested Derek's presence on campus, forcing him to reconcile for the first time with the ugliness his beliefs. Other students found the courage to reach out to him, including an Orthodox Jew who invited Derek to attend weekly Shabbat dinners. It was because of those dinners - and the wide-ranging relationships formed at that table - that Derek started to question the science, history and prejudices behind his worldview. As white nationalism infiltrated the political mainstream, Derek decided to confront the damage he had done.
Rising Out of Hatred tells the story of how white supremacist ideas migrated from the far-right fringe to the White House, through the intensely personal saga of one man who eventually disavowed everything he was taught to believe, at tremendous personal cost. With great empathy and narrative verve, Eli Saslow asks what Derek's story can tell us about America's increasingly divided nature. This is a book to help us understand the American moment and to help us better understand one another.
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  • From the book

    1. "The Great White Hope"

    The Klansmen and neo-­Nazis arrived for their meeting in the fall of 2008 dressed in suits with aliases written on their name tags and began sneaking into the hotel just after dawn. They walked past the protesters waving rainbow flags on the sidewalk, past the extra state troopers stationed outside the hotel lobby, past the FBI informants hoping to infiltrate their way inside. For several days, the government of greater Memphis had been working to prevent this "white rights conference" from taking place. One suburb declared a state of emergency so it could hire additional police officers; another issued a temporary ban on all public gatherings. But by 7:00 on Saturday morning, about 150 of the world's preeminent white nationalists had gathered inside a nondescript hotel conference room where a small sign hung on the wall.

    "The fight to restore White America begins now," it read.

    The United States had elected its first black president just four days earlier, and already the Department of Homeland Security warned of a "significant spike in activity" on the white racist fringe. President-­elect Obama was receiving an average of thirty death threats each day. Gun sales had skyrocketed to historic levels, and by some reports far-­right militia groups had tripled their membership numbers during the last year. But the white uprising that concerned the Department of Homeland Security most of all was the one beginning now in Memphis, where acoustic guitar played through the speakers and sack lunches with turkey and swiss waited on a buffet table. "It's the polite face of the racist movement that now has a chance to recruit new members and broaden in scope," one DHS analyst said.

    David Duke, the conference organizer, stepped behind a podium to welcome his guests. Duke, then fifty-­eight, had spent his life working to push the white supremacist movement from the radical fringes ever closer to the far conservative Right, rebranding himself from an Imperial Wizard of the Klan into a self-­described "racial realist" politician who nearly became governor of Louisiana in the early 1990s. He was two decades removed from the pinnacle of his international fame, and he'd tried to hold time in place by repackaging his old speeches into YouTube rants. He wore the tired look of a performer who'd stayed on tour too long, but he was still the public face of white nationalism. "The future of our movement is to become fully mainstream," Duke told the crowd, so he'd reserved one of the conference's keynote speeches for an up-­and-­coming white nationalist leader who represented that future.

    "I'd like to introduce the leading light of our movement," Duke said. "I don't know anybody who has better gifts. He may have a much more extensive national and international career than I've had. Derek, can you come on up?"

    Duke motioned to the corner of the room, where a nineteen-­year-­old community college student was hunched behind a laptop, running a live radio broadcast of the event for the online radio station he started himself.

    "We are so privileged to be with you," Duke said, before turning back to the audience. "Ladies and gentlemen, here is Derek Black."

    The crowd began to applaud, and Derek stood from his computer with a slight wave and walked to the front of the room. Most of the white nationalists already knew him, because how could they not? He was at least a generation younger than almost everyone else, with shoulder-­length red hair and a large black cowboy hat that he wore in an effort to make himself...

About the Author-
  • Eli Saslow is a Washington Post staff writer and author of Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting in 2014 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2013, 2016 and 2017. He lives in Oregon with his wife and children.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    April 1, 2018

    Son of Don Black, founder of the huge racist Internet community Stormfront, and godson of KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, Derek Black had his own white nationalist radio show at age 19, which he broadcast secretly while attending liberal New College in Florida. Students vociferously challenged him when his cover was blown, while others reached out--an Orthodox Jew invited him to Shabbat dinners--and Black felt compelled to question his beliefs. From a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 14, 2018
    Persuasion triumphs over ideology in this searching account of a young man questioning his caustic beliefs by Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post reporter Saslow (Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President). Derek Black, son of white nationalist leader Don Black and godson of ex-Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke, was, at the age of 19, a star of the white nationalist movement with a radio show on which he preached racial separatism and claims of white persecution by minorities and Jews. Then in 2010 he began attending the ultra-liberal New College of Florida. His presence, Saslow writes, caused a furor, with many students denouncing and shunning him as a racist, but others reached out: a Jewish student invited him to regular Shabbat dinners, and he began a relationship with a woman who challenged his racial doctrines with scientific studies and demanded that he think about the impact of his views on people he knew. That sustained engagement eventually convinced Black to repudiate his racist views—and forced a wrenching break with his family. Saslow tells this story with an impressive evenhandedness and empathy for everyone involved. The result is a gripping and timely examination of the “alt-right” subculture and the potential for dialogue and moral reasoning to overcome hateful dogmas.

  • Kirkus

    July 1, 2018
    Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Saslow (Ten Letters: The Stories Americans Tell Their President, 2011) delivers a memorable story of a prodigal son who broke with white supremacy thanks to the kindness of strangers.It is a small irony that Derek Black abandoned the nationalist, white power movement at just about the time that a president entered the White House who consciously put white nationalist rhetoric at the center of his campaign. Black came by his race hatred naturally, following his father's ideology as the founder of Stormfront, the neo-Nazi clearinghouse, and that of his godfather, KKK stalwart David Duke. From his father, Black carried the urgent message that whites were being made victims of cultural genocide in their own country, a grievance of the loss of privilege. However, he had a different vision in which hooded, hidden supremacists would become respectable, persuading his father to outlaw "slurs, Nazi insignia, and threats of violence or lawbreaking" from the Stormfront website. Thus Charlottesville, with its clean-cut, polo shirt-wearing torchlight parade marchers. By then, though, Derek was long gone. Bright, well-read, and skilled in debate, he had gone off to college in Florida, and there, his home-schooling parents' worst nightmare was realized: He formed a bond with a Jewish girl, though he continued his agitating, and when his identity as a white nationalist was exposed, a Jewish conservative invited him to exchange ideas. Black's eventual renunciation of the nationalist cause threw his parents into turmoil; as Saslow writes, his father hoped that "maybe Derek was just faking a change in ideology so he could have an easier life and a more successful career in academia." But absent widespread changes of heart, Black's story is an anomaly, if an instructive one--and one that closes with a dark message that conflict is looming as the white nationalist movement appears to be mushrooming.A sobering book that deserves a wide audience among politics-watchers in an age of reaction.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America "The story of Derek Black is the human being at his gutsy, self-reflecting, revolutionary best, told by one of America's best storytellers at his very best. Rising Out of Hatred proclaims if the successor to the white nationalist movement can forsake his ideological upbringing, can rebirth himself in antiracism, then we can too no matter the personal cost. This book is an inspiration."
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The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist
Eli Saslow
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