For a few weeks last summer, neo-Nazis, white nationalists and the alt-right took center stage in the United States, no longer viewed by some as a fringe political movement.
In August, an anti-racist protester in Charlottesville, Virginia, was killed by a white nationalist during a Unite The Right rally when a speeding car slammed into a group of counter-demonstrators.
Since then, there’s been a growing interest in understanding these movements.
And more people are asking questions about who these men and women are, what drives them and how did it come to this? And most importantly can anything be done to curb racist violence?
“I was forever searching, like every other kid, for some sort of belonging somewhere. And, [skinheads] seemed accepting of me based on… basically, because I’m white,” said Brad Galloway, a reformed white power activist.
AUDIO: Galloway discusses what brought him to the white power movement in his youth.
Galloway, originally from the Toronto area in Canada, spent 12 years involved in the white supremacist movement.
“I got involved through a friend that I knew in my teens. He introduced me to the far right movement, which was mostly sort of like the white power, skinhead movement,” he said.
Galloway sees the current alt-right movement as a clear evolution from the white power movement of years ago.
“Taking away from the alt-right – they need to understand that they are being seen as being connected with old white supremacy,” he said.
Galloway explained white nationalists and the alt-right reach their audience by catering to racial anxiety and fear.
“The guy who recruited me, he was pretty apt with using the way society looked to him. They said, ‘Look at what minority communities are doing, they’re taking our jobs,’” he said. “It was always about the marginalization of white people.”
AUDIO: Galloway explains how these movements reach new recruits and how they evolve over the decades.
And while fear of white marginalization plays a crucial role, Galloway said instilling fear in their perceived enemies is also an essential part of these movements.
“Whereas a violent national socialist type of group, they would walk around with swastikas on, and that causes minorities and Jewish groups to feel afraid of these people.”
AUDIO: Galloway explains the impact and power of fear used by these movements.
Galloway said his experience interacting with people that he formerly hated was a major reason for leaving the movement.
“I started thinking about these different occasions where minority communities treated me well,” he said. “I sort of look at that and say, ‘Well, how can I attach myself to belief systems, when I don’t think I actually had those beliefs?’”
AUDIO: Galloway talks about what pushed him out of the movement and the major events that impacted his life.
“I started to think about how important it was to get away from the negativity, the hate. It’s very exhausting. Involvement in those groups require 24-hour a day mentality,” he added.
Now, Galloway works with the organization Life after Hate, and he is currently studying criminology. He said that no matter what sort of movement people are involved in, no matter how much hate consumes them, there is still a possibility to get out of it.
“What I’ve experienced, I can help others,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what race these people are; we can help people get away from Islamic inspired extremism as much as we can get people away from far right stuff. It’s teaching people about how to humanize others.”
AUDIO: Galloway explains how his experience can also help people move on with their lives and get away from right-wing movements.