“Oh, honey, you’re so much better than that.”
Such was the comment of a restaurant waitress, an elderly African-American woman, to a young man after she saw the swastika tattooed on his hand. Her concern pricked his conscience. Eventually he changed the focus of his life from hate to helping others.
This story is mentioned in “Confessions of a Former White Supremacist” (Sojourners, August 2017) by Jason Byassee. The article chronicles the journey of the former white supremacist, Tony McAleer.
McAleer is co-founder of “Life After Hate,” a group working to free those bound by the hate of extremism.
McAleer’s life illustrates why some fall into the extremist trap. His father neglected his son physically and emotionally. Growing up, McAleer often was bullied. Joining a hate group was a way to cope. It provided him with the identity he lacked. His anger “rotted into neo-Nazism.”
Eventually finding himself the single father of two children, McAleer realized that he was responsible for lives other than his own and began a slow process, through counseling, toward improving his life.
His therapist was Jewish, a member of a group McAleer had been taught to hate. Yet, he helped McAleer to love himself.
Hating those who hate—despising them—only feeds their own self-hatred, to see themselves as unlovable. Instead, loving them and calling them to love themselves can be one step toward abolishing the hatred that claims the hater as its first victim.