Low-Hanging Fruit: What We Can Learn from Interviews with White Supremacists

They are popping up all over the Internet recently - videos where brave journalists, often ones of color, sit down and talk with white supremacists about their beliefs. After the events of last weekend, it's to be expected - after all, any rational person sees Nazis marching in the streets and they have a few questions: Why the hate? What makes you think that your skin color makes you superior? How did we get to this point again?

These reporters try to hold a rational discussion in an attempt to understand the white supremacist viewpoint. Of the several I've seen, most reporters attempted to keep their cool, even when the interviewees touted their belief in genocide, threatened them, insulted them, and quoted Bible verses at them in an attempt to justify their bigotry. I've noticed several common themes in these videos that I think teach us some valuable lessons about who we, as the left/antifa/however you label yourself, are dealing with here, and how we can combat them.

They don't think they're racist.

When asked if these people are racist, they invariably say "no." We've even seen some of the Nazis identified in Charlottesville say the same thing. "I'm not racist, I'm just proud of my white heritage and think it makes me superior to you."

Now, here's the $10,000 question: what, exactly, do they think "racism" means? And if they don't define it as racism, then what exactly do they think it is? The dictionary definition of racism is "prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior."

Prejudice, discrimination, antagonism: check, check, check.

Directed against someone of a different race: check

Based on the belief that one's own race is superior: check

Looks to me like they're racist. But good luck convincing them of that because....

You can't talk to them.

There is no rational discourse with people like this. It's like talking to a brick wall. They're right, you're wrong, and if you don't agree with them, you're a pussy, a cuck, or generally ignorant of "the truth." Counter-protesters yelling about racism and bigotry have no effect on them - they're rubber and we're glue, so to speak. They laugh in your face, and keep marching.

So if we can't talk to them, what can we do?

To be honest, I have mixed feelings on the use of violence. First, let me say that if someone attacks me, I will fight back. If I see someone being attacked, I will try to intervene. I would do this for anyone, and I hope anyone would do this for me.

People of color (as well as any religion, culture, or lifestyle that doesn't count as white) are actively being attacked. Not just by Nazis either, but by our own law enforcement and our government. None of this is new, and talking about it hasn't helped. People are still actively suffering.

As Americans, we love to say that voting is the strongest force for change, but we voted a bigot into office, and now we have Nazis in the street. So what's next? What if violence is the answer? Sure, we can use our fists to force them back into their basements, and yes, we can go around all day punching Nazis because it's makes us feel good, the same way curb-stomping Jews makes them feel good. Yes, we can fight fire with fire, but we'll all end up in the hospital with third-degree burns.

Don't give them the satisfaction of seeing your anger - they thrive on it. They want to piss you off, they want you to be angry, and they want you to throw the first punch so they can claim that they're the real victims here. Don't do it. Instead, use your actions in a different way - act with kindness.

Now WAIT! Before you roll your eyes and click back to whatever you were doing before reading this article, let me be clear: I am NOT advocating silence or complacency. If you are silent when someone is being oppressed, you are complicit. I am not trying to go "kumbaya" on you, really. I'm simply advocating a different method.

If you ask a former racist what it was that changed their mind, many of them will say that they met an individual of another race who disproved the stereotype and made them understand that not everyone who is of a certain color, religion, or culture is a certain way. A recent AskReddit thread highlighted just this. Most racists spend a lot of time in an echo chamber - the racists they spend time with only serve to strengthen their beliefs. When they step outside into the real world, they're generally not forced to interact with anyone they don't want to, except in passing. They don't have to go to the Jewish deli, or the gas station owned by an Indian family. Even at work, they can't exactly go around talking about their beliefs or antagonizing the minorities they might work with. So when they go home at they end of the day, all they have are other racists (sounds lonely, doesn't it?)

But it's when we do have the opportunity to interact with them in the real world that we can make change. If you've ever worked in customer service, you've dealt with people who are irrationally angry over stupid things. If you tell them they're stupid, you'll probably get fired. You have to kill them with kindness. You have to be nice even when it's the last thing you want to do, you have to smile even when you want to cry. And sometimes, your sweet manner, forced as it may be, can make them realize just how rude they're being. I am not saying that you should try to be someone that they want you to be, or present yourself in a way that is more palatable to their delicate sensibilities, but I am telling you to be the best human that you can possibly be, and show them just what kind of person you are.

Look, it's not easy to do this, and it's especially not easy if you're the target of their hatred. People get defensive when things don't go how they expect; they double up their efforts because they want to get a reaction out of you. But you are in charge of how you react. Only you are responsible for your actions. They made the choice to hate, you can make the choice to come back at them with kindness. It's so important that we maintain the moral high ground because...

For many of them, it's about God.

The Bible is no stranger to being interpreted and translated in all sorts of ways to fit all sorts of agendas - it's been happening since the books of the Bible first came together. It's the most famous, best-selling book of all time, and as it is with religion, everyone thinks that their version is the right one. The thing about the Bible or any religious text is that it's old, and has been translated and re-translated multiple times over the centuries. The many active versions of the Bible studied by different sects all include different wording, which can lead to different interpretations. When there is no one living who was there at the time to tell you what they actually meant, it's very easy to see what you want to see.

For all of the social progressions that Christians have historically been against, Christian leaders and congregations are starting to actually embrace the Golden Rule - do unto others as you would have them do unto you unto you (or just "love thy neighbor" depending on your translation.) This is why the Christian community, in particular, needs to step up and declare that racism is not a Christian trait, and that the God of white supremacy is not the God that most of them worship. It also might help if they let the Nazis know that Jesus wasn't white.

We can't sink to their level.

The Internet amazes me. If you look in the comments of any of the videos referenced above, you'll see a lot of people saying things like "lol stupid redneck, it's amazing how they think they can be genetically superior to anyone."

And I just...

Do these people not understand that they're doing the exact thing that they are condemning the white supremacists for? Judging people by the way they look? Thinking they're better? How do people not see the hypocrisy?

When speaking with people on all sides, treat this kind of talk like the easy target that it is. It's so simple to pick on someone because they look or speak or act a certain way. It often is a sign of fear or insecurity, like how sometimes bullies who pick on the gay kid might actually be trying to fight back homosexual feelings themselves. When we call them rednecks, inbreeders, and morons, we're acting just like them, though obviously on a less extreme scale.  If you want to defeat the Nazis, you need to start by being better than them. Whether they gets theirs in society or in hell, trust that they will get theirs. Don't stoop to their level. Don't go after the low-hanging fruit.