Derek Black has been nurtured from the time he was born until the time he went off to college to be the great white hope for the future of the white nationalist movement. His father, Don, established Stormfront.com, the earliest and largest promoter of racist propaganda on the internet, and David Duke, his godfather, is the well-known KKK/Nazi politician. Everyone in this underworld knows Derek and believes he will take over for Don and Duke, as Derek has already begun to co-host their radio show, assist with the website, and even help organize their annual conference. But as Derek enters college, he decides to keep this part of his identity secret, interacting with the diverse students in his classes and activities, even while he maintains his connection with his radio show daily. However, what happens very gradually, when Derek is later exposed, ostracized and then quietly invited to the regular Shabbat dinner of an Orthodox Jewish friend of his, begins the process of challenging his deepest convictions — and is absolutely stunning.
This true story has been featured on various podcasts (The Daily is one) and has been written about in various newspapers, so you may know the basic story. Derek himself has written opinion pieces for the New York Times. But in this moment of unleashing of hatred and bigotry, this story is a crucial one – and the details matter. It is crucial because it shows how hatred has been simmering underground for so long among those who are living their very insular lives, among those who think only like they do. And it is crucial because it demonstrates, most importantly, that if we look at those who think differently from ourselves as human beings, only then can we start to have a civil and respectful enough discourse to come together on ideas.
I am in awe of the courage of the students who showed friendship to Derek even after he was “outed” as the co-host of the morning show on Stormfront. They stuck by him, braving the derision of most of their peers, showing steadfast friendship to the the hero of the dark side, even as he degraded their racial groups on his radio show, even as they questioned their own wisdom in doing so.
And I am in awe of Derek himself, who has truly shown courage in the thought and heart that he has put into his own journey. It is so much easier to go along with what your family and community preaches and to stick to your original beliefs. It is so much harder to go against your family wishes, to turn around what you’ve been taught is right, to go against your indoctrination and open up your heart to other ideas.
But I am also not sorry he has accepted his responsibility to go public with his journey, because he has to share with others that those narrow-minded, absurd ideas about white supremacy are just wrong – and that the harm they do to others can not, under any circumstances, be justified.
In this moment, this book is absolutely a MUST-READ!