Friday, June 24, 2011

Skinhead redemption

Quote for the day:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. ― Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

THIS SUNDAY NIGHT, June 26, at 9:00 PM Eastern and 8:00 PM Central, MSNBC will air Erasing Hate, "a documentary that chronicles the redemptive story of a violent, racist skinhead who renounced the white power movement and, with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center, underwent an excruciating series of laser treatments to remove the racist tattoos that covered his face and hands."

If you happened to have read my post from March 19, you'll know that the SPLC is indirectly responsible for my decision to write a blog. Here's what I had to say then:

I was so proud of Iowa when we became one of the few states in the nation to allow same-sex marriage. Iowa has a long, proud history of civil rights, and the courageous decision by the Iowa Supreme Court to extend the right to marry to gay people was another illustrious moment. Then there was the election, and three judges who had been part of the ruling were voted out. It's not that people didn't have the right to vote "no" on retention, it's just their reasons for doing it sucked IMHO. 

I'd been stewing about it ever since, and I got it in my head to call the Southern Poverty Law Center, the well-respected civil rights organization that tracks hate groups, to ask whether they include gay-hate in their province. They do, and I made a mental note that when we had a few spare dollars — which we totally didn't have right then — I would make a small donation.

Fast forward several months. I was having a really bad week. Nothing seemed to be going right, and I felt dissatisfied with myself and the world in general. The only thing I could think of that would improve my mood was to make that small contribution to the SPLC whether we could afford it or not. 

It did cheer me up. It also made me eligible to listen to a live conversation between SPLC president, Richard Cohen, and Mark Potok, Director of the Intelligence Project. I listened, and I learned that the number of hate groups has ballooned 54% to more than 1002 since the election of Barack Obama. The notion that people are against our duly elected president — not just against him, but hate him — because of the amount of pigment in his skin is unfathomable to me.

The things that get under my skin are injustice, cruelty, misogyny, racism, violence. These themes are united in this documentary. 

Click here to read more about the upcoming program and here to watch a clip.

Paul and I visited the Civil Rights Memorial in November 2010, the same place where the photo of Byron and Julie Widner was taken that appears in the linked article.

At the Civil Rights Memorial in
Washington, DC.  
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