A couple of weeks ago I was surfing through the channels when I came across an interesting story on the popular television show 60 Minutes. The headline was “Neo-Nazi party leader shot to death by 10 yr old son”. The first thought that came to my mind was “wow huge surprise” but regardless I decided to watch the program in order to find out the intricate details of this occurrence.
To begin, the man who was killed is named Jeff Hall is a leading member of the Neo-Nazi party in southern California who is steeped in the beliefs of the party. Mr. Hall has been quoted stating “I want a white society, I believe in secession. I believe in giving my life for secession”. Ironically enough Mr. Hall got to prove his promise. Mr. Hall was also an active member of a militia band of boarder watchers and often brought his ten year old son to meetings and stakeouts.
Pictured above is Mr. Hall showing a new group of boarder watchers how to quickly pull a knife out of ones pants in case they run out of ammunition. In the 60 minutes program his wife stated that their son would come home rifle in hand and speaking without fear about killing immigrants. Apparently, immigrants weren’t the only people he planned on killing. At roughly 4:00 A.M. on may 1st the paramedics responded to call that Mr. Hall’s 10 year old son had put his fathers handgun to his head while he slept and blew his brains out.
The first thought that comes to mind when a murder is committed by someone so young, is that it must have been accidental. However, this does not seem to be the case in this situation. When the police asked the son if he knew what he was doing he calmly responded “Yes, I took off the safety, cocked the gun, and pulled the trigger”. Apparently he took daddy’s lesson on loading a gun to heart. This murder does not come as a surprise to me, the father was often seen bringing all of his young and impressionable children to rallies across California. According to the New York Times, the day before Mr. Hall was shot he was preaching about killing each and every immigrant that reached the boarder in order to prevent their diseased AIDS filled blood from spreading into America. Oh, by the way his son was in the front row happy as a clam. Hmm, I wonder where his child go the idea to kill another person. To be honest I am surprised this didnt happen earlier, the man has literally brought his son up on the ideals of violence, murder and hatred, how would you not expect his son to be a psychopath.
Currently the boy is awaiting trial where he will be tried as a juvenile on the count of murder in the first degree. If he is convicted he is looking at life in prison, the first 8 years of which will be in juvenile hall and the remaining in a state penitentiary. Lesson: DON’T TEACH YOUR KIDS HOW TO KILL AND THAT KILLING IS JUSTIFIABLE.
Both American History X and Autobiography of a Recovering Skin Head: The Frank Meenik story encompass the idea of suffering consequences and the difficult road to recovery. From both of these sources I learned valuable new information about the white nationalist movement in America, and was reaffirmed on what I had suspected went on in these extremist groups.
To begin lets discuss American History X and the important messages that embody this film. American History X is above all else a story about revelations. The main character Derek Vinyard (portrayed by Edward Norton.
Derek, like a large portion of youth who get involved in the white supremacist movement, comes from a broken family. His father was murdered in cold blood by an African American drug dealer thus spiraling Derek into a world of hatred. Derek blames all of his losses on minorities and firmly embodies the white supremacist movement that is continuously growing in the Venice Beach area. Derek is loved by his followers and his leader, he has power, control, and everything he previously had before the tragic death of his father. I believe this is a perfect representation of what a majority of the youth involved in the white supremacist (specifically the skinhead movement) movement look to gain by joining. They are troubled youths, they may come from an abusive family, they may be picked on in school, but one emotion that they all lack is self confidence. They feel as though they are worthless and desire to belong. The skinhead movement thus fills this void. The members who recruit give these kids a sense of family, and most of all importance. They tell them that they are part of a group that will never turn their backs on them. They show them how other people fear them and soon these troubled youths become infatuated with the respect they maintain while with the group.
This perception of the white supremacist movement is further supported through Frank Meenik’s story, Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead.
Frank Meenik’s story is very similar to the story portrayed in American History X. He comes from an abusive family that consists of a druggie mother and extremely abusive step father. He feels weak and misunderstood at school and has little to no friends. He is constantly picked on really considers himself worthless. But then a savior skinhead comes along and shows him the life he could have if he dedicates his life to the cause. Suddenly people fear frank, he is surrounded by people that he believes like him for who he is (or what they are transforming him into). Frank continues to get more violent until finally his actions catch up with him and he is sent to prison. Just as in American History X Frank realizes his mistakes and begins the long road to recovery (with a few pit stops to pick up heroin).
In both of these stories I was affirmed in my belief of the type of people that join these movements. They are all just kids looking for somewhere to fit in and above all else feel important. Once they join they become addicted to these emotions and realize the more they get violent, or embody the movement the more respect and power they receive in return. For me these two sources showed the type of people that these white supremacist predators seek out and how dangerous these recruiters can be.
I have learned a lot from attending the class, White Supremacy and Ideology, to be honest a lot more than I thought I would. Before this class started I assumed we would simply cover how the white race has put down minorities over history and how white people are essentially “evil”. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not the case at all. We spent most of the class discussing current trends and delving into the minds behind both the leaders and the members of the white supremacist movement. I specifically enjoyed the book White Man Falling, I had always thought of white supremacists as white gown, pointy hat wearing, cross burners. However after taking this class I now have a much deeper understanding of the depth that is white supremacy.
One topic that I found particularly interesting surrounded the popular holiday Halloween. Everyone knows that on Halloween at colleges around the nation, and at Washington State University specifically costumes tend to get out of control. This Halloween I can recall seeing multiple students dressed as stereotypes of all races including Mexicans, Asians, and African-Americans. Before taking this class I would have thought nothing of a girl dressed as a geisha, or someone wearing a poncho, sombrero, and huge mustache.
To be honest I most likely would have joined in and worn that type of costume playing it off as just another entertaining outfit. However after taking this class I have a completely different view on the topic. Even if some people are not offended by the costume it is without a doubt racist. The costume is designed to make fun of another individual’s culture and traditions…I don’t know what is more racist than that. Not only are you make fun of another persons culture but the costume is taking the extreme stereotype of that culture and parading it up and down the streets of a collegiate institution. It also doesn’t help that everyone that sees the costume is already drunk and continues to complement the individual on how hysterical that persons costume is. By feeding the fire like this is only perpetuating the never ending cycle on racist costumes.
Even in this day and age I still managed to still multiple college students wearing some form of black face. For those of you who do not know “ Blackface is a form of theatrical makeup used in minstrel shows and later vaudeville in which performers create a stereotype characicture of a black person. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the proliferation of stereotypes such as the “happy-go-lucky darky on the plantation or the dandified coon” (Pinchunyk, 2011). Here is an old picture of how black face was depicted.
However, a more recent representation of the racist costume, and the type of costume that you would see on a college campus would look this.
One organization that fights to combat the spread of white nationalist rhetoric in and outside of the American justice system is the Southern Poverty Law Center. Although the Southern Poverty Law Center does not focus specifically on white nationalist prison gangs it deals with minority groups and how white nationalists affect them. This is similar to what is occurring inside of penitentiaries, minorities are bonding together and forming gangs in order to battle other racially based gangs.
Before we continue here is a brief history of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Morris Dees and Joseph Levin, who created the center to combat civil rights legal issues, started the foundation in 1971. The Southern Poverty Law center has since grown to become a nationally recognized center that combats the spread of white supremacist groups and provides crucial information concerning such groups to the government. The Southern Poverty Law Center still provides representation for hate crime victims and those that are affected by crime as a result of biological traits out of their control.
The reason that the Southern Poverty Law Center is the organization I decided to write about has to do with cases this organization associates them with. I believe that penitentiaries today are so violent because they are so over crowded. The reason that I believe penitentiaries are so crowded is because the impoverished inmates are unable to afford proper representation. This is why the Southern Poverty Law Center is connected to prison gangs, through their efforts they are able to provide well educated lawyers to those who would usually be unable to afford one. By giving these impoverished arrestees lawyers they are lessening the chance that the arrestees go to prison where they would most likely join a gang based on their race. While this might sound like a big assumption, the Southern Poverty Law Center specifically deals with minorities who are affected by hate crimes, as such it is reasonable to assume that these arrestees are going to act vengeful against the race that attacked them. Therefore the more inmates that have been a victim of hate crimes are kept out of prison the less that prison gangs based on race will grow.
One suggestion that I would have for the Southern Poverty Law Center would be to reach out and help all races that are victims of hate crimes. Although it does not happen nearly as much white people can be victims of hate crimes just like any other race. Especially, with the economy, more and more of middle America are dipping down into the depths of poverty.
As with all political groups there are the mainstream followers and those that considered themselves t be extremists. This was a topic commonly discussed in class, and observed in class readings such as White Man Falling by Jesse Daniels. In the world outside of prison it isn’t always obvious which groups are part of the mainstream and which are associated with the extreme. For example, one could look at the SPLC (the Southern Poverty Law Center) and see an abundance of groups such as the KKK or The Aryan Brotherhood and still have no idea which group is more violent or more filled with hate then the other. Foe example, the group that lists themselves as the National Alliance does not sound as though they would be a white supremacist group or a violent group of any sort. However, if one looks deeper into the history and beliefs of the group they would find that William Luther Pierce, the author of the “The Turner Diaries” was once a leader of this group. “The Turner Diaries” are considered by the Southern Law Poverty Center to be the bible of racist right amongst extreme white supremacist groups across the nation. To those who do not know, The Turner Diaries is a novel that depicts a future of anarchy and chaos as the white race fails to prevent any of the disaster in fear they will be labeled as racists. It also the novel that has fueled lone wolfs across the country into performing terrorist acts against other races. Most notably, it has been the inspiration for the bombing of the J. Edgar Hoover building and is considered to be the main cause of the Oklahoma City bombings. This just goes to show that it is not easy to differentiate between which groups are parts of the mainstream and which groups are part of the extremists.
The same concept that applies to members of prison gangs based upon racial lines. Although many of the members that are a part of these radical violent gangs stand firmly behind the beliefs of the white nationalist movement, there are many members that only associate because they fear for their safety. Take for example this video. In this video you do not see a bunch of extreme racists preaching the death of their different skinned brothers. Instead you see a gang of men who associate as way to survive their time in San Quentin. Many of the men speak of their fallen brothers, but they do not speak with anger in their tone, merely sadness and regret. These men are all part of a gang called The Mexican Mafia, one of the most violent prison gangs in the southwestern region of the United States. However, much like the gangs outside of prison they cannot be judged as one singular unit, there are varying levels of infatuation and belief within each individual gang as there are varying levels of intensity amongst different nationalist groups. In conclusion, I am by no means justifying the formation of racist groups and gangs, I am merely stating that members of each group are not always as balck and white as we would like them to be.
The video that I found relating to the topic of white nationalist prison gangs is a reporting piece entitled “Race War in Prison”. The video states that the first types of prison gangs based upon racial lines were at Pelican Bay and were The Black Guerilla Family, The Mexican Mafia, and the The Aryan Brotherhood. The reason behind the formation of these gangs follows along with themes presented in White Man Falling. It is not so much that each race goes into prison with a tremendous amount of hate for others (although some do), but instead join into gangs to find a sense of community and safety. Outside of the prison walls it is common to see white nationalists groups recruiting misfits and those who were cast out of “normal society”, and that are left alone in a dangerous world. The recruiting process is similar inside the confines of penitentiaries, all of the inmates are already misfits cast out, and they realize very quickly that if they do not associate with a gang then their death is certain.
Another theme from class that relates to this video besides the similarities in the type of men that are recruited into white nationalist groups and gangs, has to do with a sense of belonging. At the very beginning of the video a prison guard states that if they do not associate themselves with a gang or group the inmates are considered lone wolfs and as such are easy targets. Lone wolfs, both in or outside of prison share the same low chance of survival. As the video progresses a group of white men show the reporter (with a certain sense of pride I might add) the multiple stab wounds they have received while serving their time with the prison walls. These are men that are associated with a white prison gang and yet they still bare disturbing scars, one could only imagine what an inmate with no allies would look like.
Late in the video during a personal interview, one of the inmates states that inside the prison the different races are more like separate countries, and that “sometimes you’re the big country and sometimes you’re the little country, but you never want to be the little country”. The inmate also states that he does not believe that are specific men are the target of the violent warfare that is conducted inside of prisons. This is very common amongst extremist groups that exist outside of prison as well. As we have seen from the literature provided in class and the rhetoric of white nationalist groups that they view other races as insects and not deserving of life. Whether these groups exist inside or outside of prison they both believe that they are not killing other humans but exterminating beasts. To me it seems anyway, that the prison gangs inside of prison are doing exactly what the leaders of the groups outside of are preaching, extreme violence and the perjury of lesser races.
For this blog we were assigned to discuss a main figure of our topic and a issue with our topic. For this post I chose to focus on Micahel Thompson. Michael Thompson is s ‘a leader in the Aryan Brotherhood (AB) prison gang. He has been in prison since 1973, and has been sentenced to additional life terms for crimes committed behind bars.”(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Thompson_%28Aryan_Brotherhood%29).The picture below is a picture of Thompson while incarcerated at Pelican Bay.
In the early minutes of the following video, Michael Thompson is featured showing how he has created a shank and how he views the Aryan Brotherhood.
He calls the AB the brand, because it is a brand that all the members embody, when you join the brand you ride for the brand and fight for the brand. Michael Thompson was once considered one of the most ruthless killers of the Aryan Brotherhood which explains why he was regarded as a top leader. However, after the gang began to lose its structure and discipline Michael Thompson “became an informant against the Aryan Brotherhood after another AB member, Curtis Price, killed the father, wife and friend of an AB informant named Steven Barnes. Thompson was appalled by the lack of respect shown by the organization to their fellow member, and started cooperating with the FBI” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Thompson_%28Aryan_Brotherhood%29). This brings up the issue that has lead to a reformation of the gangs leadership. In the begining the gang was formed to protect white members of the prison community against rival gangs such as the Black Guerrilla Family. However recently the gang has swtiched to “Prison activities [that] include introduction of contraband, distribution of drugs, and getting past facility rules and regulations.” (http://www.dc.state.fl.us/pub/gangs/prison.html#ab). The murder of Barnes family as well as the move from protection to drug trafficking lead to Thompson’s decision to disassociate himself from the gang.
As there is not a chest of information on the AB on the internet due to the secrecy that the gang prides itself in maintaining, I would also like to introduce the key founders of the Aryan Brotherhood. Barry “The Baron” Mills is one of the three founders of the Aryan Brotherhood. Additoanlly, Mills was recently endited for “charges of murder, conspiracy and racketeering… [and for] rdering the murders of two African-American inmates” (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5591170). Below is a picture of Barry Mills.
Along with Mills fellow founding father Tyler Bingham was also endited for the same crimes that Mills was. The two founders avoided the death penalty due to the fact that no other gang members would say anything about the murders. However himself and Mills were “convicted of murder…[and are] serving a life sentence with no parole, escaping the death penalty.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyler_Bingham). Below is recent picture of the founder.
Of these three important figures the only two who are still members of the AB are Mills and Bingham. They are responsible for establishing the Brotherhoods mantra which states “An Aryan brother is without a care, He walks where the weak and heartless won’t dare. For an Aryan brother, death holds no fear, Vengeance will be his, through his brothers still here.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aryan_Brotherhood#Notable_members). No matter what direction the Brotherhood is moving towards it is clear that the leaders still value violence, murder, and racial purity, and use their excessive force as way to stay dominate within the confines of prison walls.