Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist

Published on31 OCT 2018

Former white nationalist Derek Black is joined by Allison Gornik and Matthew Stevenson – instrumental figures in his transformation and denouncement of the movement – for a discussion moderated by Elisha Wiesel on the power of dialogue.

Stevenson, on why he welcomed Black into his circle of friends: “I think that the fundamental message is not that you should invite people over for dinner and then things will be hunky-dory. With that being said, you know, there is an expression from the Jewish sages. It says that, ‘You’re not expected to complete the work, but you’re also not free to desist from it.’ And so I think everybody has opportunities in their lives, different opportunities depending on the individual. I had [this] unique circumstance…to stand up for what is right and moral and just and to oppose things that are not and [you] have to take those opportunities.”

Gornik, on how rational, evidence-based discussion proved effective in transforming Black’s belief system: “For me, it was…self-education…But I did take a class on the science and history behind stigma and prejudice and discrimination. And that was incredibly helpful in sort of pointing me in directions to go down, to then forward these articles and research to Derek….that kind of direct education and access to education about these topics I think is incredibly helpful.”

Black, on how his story can represent the potential for progress: “It’s important to think about the fact that there is no person who is not important, there is no person who…is not worth [talking to], as long as you have the time and as long as you feel safe and as long as that’s something that you can do. That’s the way we fix this.”

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