Arno Michaelis in Washington Post: “How You Become a White Supremacist”

Parents for Peace member Arno Michaelis has published an editorial in the Washington Post in reaction to the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

Arno’s piece is titled “This Is How You Become a White Supremacist” and recounts the story of his own evolution from a racist skinhead into an acclaimed advocate for tolerance. Here is an excerpt:

When everything is going wrong in your life, it’s much easier to blame Jews/Muslims/blacks/Mexicans/gays/anyone-but-yourself than it is to face your flaws and begin the hard work to account for them. The teenage outcast kid is told that it’s the Jews’ fault he doesn’t have a girlfriend the media they control tells white girls to be attracted to black boys. The middle-aged guy who lost his job has “illegal” immigrants to blame, and take a wild guess who the racist narrative says brings them into our country.

The recruitment process is sophisticated beyond the understanding of the recruiters. There are very complex human frailties that are preyed upon and manipulated without either the prospect or recruiter really understanding the psychological dynamics. Recruiters fail to understand the spiritual mechanics behind a person’s need for love, but they know well enough to look for people who are hurting. Simply put, it feels good for a person to feel a sense of belonging, purpose and value, especially if they lack love in their lives.

Arno ends with an account of his visit to Charleston immediately after the shootings:

Within 36 hours of the Emanuel AME Church community losing their precious sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and mothers and fathers, I was on the way to Charleston with Amardeep and Pardeep Kaleka, two brothers whose father was killed in the 2012 Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin. Arriving at the church after a 20-hour car ride, we joined what we were not surprised to see was a celebration outside. People of all ethnicities, from across the nation, had gathered to combine broken hearts in the spirit of human oneness. The experience was overwhelming in its beauty and defiance of hate. I broke down sobbing.

Before my tears could hit the ground, black members of the Emanuel AME congregation embraced me and held me. I had come to comfort them, but it was their love that comforted me, sending an immensely powerful and indisputable message: When we rebel against the construct of race and love each other as a great human family, hate cannot win.

As an alliance of families, we at Parents for Peace believe that love can win over hate. We will have to stand strong against the forces of extremism that seek to radicalize young Americans.