Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Life after Hate: Former Neo-Nazi Leads Effort to Rehab White Supremacists

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Life after Hate: Former Neo-Nazi Leads Effort to Rehab White Supremacists

Article excerpt

Last September, a week before Yom Kippur, a former skinhead sat before the Jewish community whose synagogue he had vandalized decades earlier.

It was the site in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Tony McAleer committed his first anti-Semitic act before he rose to prominence in the white supremacy movement.

"I had to face this congregation that I had harmed," he recalled. This would be his personal Day of Atonement.

He came before them nervous, ashamed and fearful. And he shared his journey.

McAleer was 15 when he developed a loose association with neo-Nazis. It wasn't the hateful ideology that drew him in.

"I became a skinhead because I felt weak and powerless," he said. He felt invisible. The attention and approval that came with his hate group made him feel safe.

"I had so much invested in this identity. It wasn't about whether I was correct."

Over the years, those relationships slowly became his entire identity, and he often appeared on television as a spokesman for the white supremacist cause.

His mother was horrified. While her love was unconditional, the relationship with her was not.

"She held me accountable," he said. She told him that if he was going to have one foot in the world of neo-Nazis, she wasn't going to be around to help him raise his children. It was help he desperately needed as a single father. He left the movement in his early 30s, but had not yet dealt with the wounds that made those views attractive to him in the first place.

In a political moment when racists feel emboldened to publicly share their hateful views, family members may struggle with how to respond. Last summer, some were surprised to discover their children or siblings had marched holding Tiki torches and chanting Nazi slogans in the violent Charlottesville, Va., rally. A Ladue High School graduate was seen marching alongside neo-Nazis and KKK supporters, and his sister apologized for and condemned his actions on Facebook.

The main organizer of the Charlottesville rally is planning another demonstration in August across the street from the White House on the anniversary of last summer's deadly protest. …

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