I received an advanced reader copy (ARC) of a new book coming out titled: Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Eli Saslow. Now, that is a pretty loaded title. I mean white nationalism? Woah. Not something usually on my radar.
And what exactly is white nationalism? Is it Nazi’s and the KKK? To be honest, I was pretty naive about it going into this book. But it intrigued me, a lot, so I bumped it up to #1 on my TBR (To Be Read) list and jumped right in.
The following 300 pages of my life were some of the most information, inspirational, and influential words I have ever read. This book was THAT impactful. Once I finished reading it I literally just sat there absorbing everything. I honestly needed to wait several days before I had processed the information enough to write this post.
It follows the life and journey of Derek Black, who you may have heard of, as he is quite famous. He grew up so entrenched in white nationalism he knew nothing else. He was homeschooled. His uncle was once the Grand Wizard of the KKK and his dad is the creator of Stormfront, a white nationalist website and forum.
As a teenager he was already speaking at conferences talking about how Jews weren’t white and how anyone who wasn’t caucasian should be deported and that there was a white genocide going on in America right now. He studied Nazism, claimed the numbers of reported dead in the Holocaust were extremely over dramatized, and that whites were a genetically superior race. Crazy stuff, I know.
Then he went to New College, one of the most liberal schools in the United States. His first friend was Latino and one of his next was an Orthodox Jew. But he didn’t see how his views could literally harm his friends. He kept his identity quiet, calling into the white nationalist radio show he hosted with his dad outdoors where no one could possibly listen in.
Eventually though, people found out who he was and there was an uproar on campus. He was basically shunned, spit on, and called out for his beliefs. Students called for him to be expelled from the school. People would drop classes he was in and avoid even passing by him for fear of association.
But, some of his friends were convinced they could change him. Prior to people finding out who he was, Derek was well known on campus for being extremely smart, a great listener, and a very rational person. His maturity was beyond his years. After he was found out, he started being invited to weekly Shabbat dinners, and, having literally nowhere else to go, he attended.
Over time, and after a lot of hard work, scientific research, and long heated debates, Derek started to see that the information fed to him for his entire life was completely flawed. This ‘heir’ to white nationalism actually reversed his views and his heart and realized the harm he had caused other people.
What I found interesting, is this transformation closely followed past three elections: both of Obama’s terms and through the Trump election. Politics and white nationalism go hand in hand so reading this story with the back drop of elections that I was old enough to vote in, truly opened my eyes.
Derek’s story is truly amazing. But it isn’t just his transformation that is important to me. It is knowing how white nationalists think. Why they believe the things they do and how it has had a very dramatic effect on recent US history.
To me, every single person needs to read this book. This book is imperative to understanding our country and how we got here as well as knowing that people can change.
Thank you to Netgalley and Doubleday Books for the Advanced Reader Copy!