Sometimes the voice of one individual fighting against hatred can ring just as intense as the chants of protestors marching in the streets for equality.
Often times the work of the masses, in fighting against the systematic racism affecting minorities, can overshadow the work that individuals do on an everyday basis to fight against the powers of supremacy.
That is not to say I am against gathering by the thousands and being civicly engaged in social justice issues that affect our country. I’m all for protesting, signing petitions and getting your voice heard among your fellow activists.
That being said, I would like to highlight those who have dedicated their life work to dismantling hatred toward minority populations. They are the ones who continue to fight when the streets are empty and life goes back to “normal.” I’m sure many of you reading this are apart of the above mentioned group of people who channel frustration and anger toward changing our culture of racism everyday.
This week, I’d like you to meet Christian Picciolini.
Picciolini, a former skinhead and white supremacist, was one of the most powerful racists in America in the late 1980s and early 1990’s.
He was vehement in his disgust for black people, Jews, homosexuals, and basically anyone who wasn’t white.
His dissent into hatred started as a teenager. He was recruited in Chicago while smoking a joint in an alleyway when a skinhead approached him and said “Don’t you know thats what the communists and Jews want you to do to keep you dossile?”
It was that conversation that changed his life forever. He was broken, bullied and belittled by almost everyone in his life. He found a sense of belonging with the Chicago Area Skinheads (CASH). They became his family and he was their golden child.
At age sixteen he became their leader when high-ranking members were sent to prison for assault. On the side he was the lead musician in two white supremacist punk bands, White American Youth (W.A.Y.) and the Final Solution. No matter what he did it was all under the umbrella of fighting for white supremacy.
At nineteen he fell in love and got married. He had his first child that same year. It was when he held his daughter in his arms for the first time he “remembered what it was like to love something instead of to hate.” It was then that his priorities shifted.
At 22 he renounced ties to the American neo-Nazi movement.
Now, at 44 years old he has dedicated his life post-hate to de-radicalizing members of extremists groups and using his unique position to educate people about the dangers and inner-workings of white supremacist groups.
His nonprofit, Life After Hate tracks down racist influencers on social media and starts one on one conversations with them in an effort to start the de-radicalization process. Its through open and honest conversations that this work has proven to be successful. Through Life After Hate, he has helped over 100 people escape extremist groups.
In 2018, when events like Charlottesville, President Trump calling primarily black countries “shitholes” and the general underlining of hatred and racism within the political world – it’s people like Picciolini who shine through the darkness.
He is the light that shows the world that hatred isn’t something we’re born with. It’s something that we learn and we’re taught.
If we’re able to learn something, it means that it can be undone. We can expand our knowledge and understanding in other ways toward a more inclusive culture where people from all backgrounds are respected.