Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ex Neo-Nazi Urges Parents to Talk to Kids about Their Take on Charlottesville

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ex Neo-Nazi Urges Parents to Talk to Kids about Their Take on Charlottesville

Article excerpt

Former neo-Nazi says youth can turn from hate

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VANCOUVER - A former neo-Nazi from Vancouver says the violence in Charlottesville, Va., presents an opportunity for parents and educators to become more aware of how easily youth can be lured into a seemingly exciting but potentially deadly world of hate.

Tony McAleer, 49, became immersed in white supremacy at age 15 when some skinheads befriended him through a subculture of punk music.

"By the time I got into organized groups I was 17, 18," said McAleer, adding he has dealt with his guilt about targeting non-whites and gays for 15 years by helping others exit a similar lifestyle.

Unlike in the days of his own experience, the internet has made it much easier for youth to become radicalized without having to seek out neo-Nazi groups or attend meetings that could draw protesters or undercover police, he said.

McAleer said it's important for parents to regularly talk with their kids about issues such as last week's nationalist rally in Charlottesville where a 20-year-old man allegedly rammed a vehicle into a crowd of anti-racists, including a young woman who was killed.

"Ask them what they know about Charlottesville. What do they think happened? What do their friends think? Just come at it from a non-judgmental place and get them opening up and communicating," he said.

"If you wait until they come home with a fascist haircut and a tiki torch I think at that point it's too late. Once they get a certain point down the rabbit hole it's beyond the education and skill set of most parents to handle properly."

In 1994, at the height of his entrenchment that later filled him with "toxic shame," McAleer was before the Canadian Human Rights Commission over his operation of a computerized telephone answering service that connected callers from around the world to local racist organizers.

He left the groups after the birth of his daughter 26 years ago, and a son a year later, McAleer said, adding his kids taught him that no child is born a hater.

However, the transition back to his former life was fraught with loneliness because he was no longer connected to anyone from his past, though his mother supported him afterwards his father, whose native England was bombed by the Nazis during the Second World War, has found it difficult to forgive him.

McAleer's redemption came partly through his co-founding of a not-profit group called Life After Hate, which he said helps people move out of an existence that sucks in mostly disconnected people with a belief that their worth lies in the colour of their skin. …

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