How a Liberal Arts Education Helped Derek Black, the Godson of David Duke, Break with the White Nationalist Movement

Image of Ron Paul, Don Black, Derek Black (right), via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

A native of West Palm Beach, Flori­da, Derek Black grew up in one of the most promi­nent white nation­al­ist fam­i­lies in the Unit­ed States. He’s the son of Don Black, a for­mer grand wiz­ard of the Ku Klux Klan. And he’s the god­son of David Duke, “the most rec­og­niz­able fig­ure of the Amer­i­can rad­i­cal right, a neo-Nazi, long­time Klan leader and now inter­na­tion­al spokesman for Holo­caust denial” (per the South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter). In short, Derek Black had every rea­son to grow up a racist, and remain a racist from cra­dle to grave. But things did­n’t turn out that way.

Below, you can hear Black explain how, as a young adult, he broke with white nation­al­ism, leav­ing behind his fam­i­ly, friends and com­mu­ni­ty. What laid the ground­work for that break? Going to a small lib­er­al arts col­lege, encoun­ter­ing new ideas, and meet­ing dif­fer­ent peo­ple. In this record­ed inter­view, he tells Michael Bar­baro of The New York Times:

In 2010, I moved across the state and start­ed col­lege at this lit­tle lib­er­al arts col­lege in Flori­da, which was about three and a half hours from home and it was the first time that I had lived away from home. Nobody knew who I was and I did not vol­un­teer who I was or any­thing about my back­ground, I made friends, hung out with peo­ple and played my gui­tar on my bal­cony in my dorm. It was nice to come back from class and be able to talk about his­to­ry or phi­los­o­phy or what­ev­er oth­er sub­ject and be around oth­er peo­ple.…

I had a friend on cam­pus who I had got­ten to know dur­ing my first semes­ter when nobody knew who I was, he was an obser­vant Jew who had Shab­bat din­ners pret­ty reg­u­lar­ly when­ev­er he was in town on Fri­day night and he would invite peo­ple of athe­ists and all sorts of dif­fer­ent reli­gions. It was just a nice din­ner. And so he actu­al­ly invit­ed me to one of the Shab­bats, and I knew him, and so I brought wine…

He had read my posts on Storm­front [a white nation­al­ist web­site cre­at­ed by Don Black] going back years — even the stuff when I was a teenag­er — and he doubt­ed that he was going to con­vince me of any­thing, he just want­ed to let me see a Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty thing so that if I was going to keep say­ing these anti-Semit­ic things that at least I had seen real Jews.

It was ulti­mate­ly in pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions with a per­son I met at the Shab­bat din­ners … we would talk about things. Not only white nation­al­ism, but even­tu­al­ly white nation­al­ism. And I would say, “This is what I believe about I.Q. dif­fer­ences, I have 12 dif­fer­ent stud­ies that have been pub­lished over the years, here’s the jour­nal that’s put this stuff togeth­er, I believe that this is true, that race pre­dicts I.Q. and that there were I.Q. dif­fer­ences in races.” And they would come back with 150 more recent, more well researched stud­ies and explain to me how sta­tis­tics works and we would go back and forth until I would come to the end of that argu­ment and I’d say, Yes that makes sense, that does not hold togeth­er and I’ll remove that from my ide­o­log­i­cal tool­box but every­thing else is still there. And we did that over a year or two on one thing after anoth­er until I got to a point where I didn’t believe it any­more.

As you stream the inter­view below, spend some time think­ing about the trans­for­ma­tive pow­er of a lib­er­al arts edu­ca­tion. Yes, more than an expe­di­ent busi­ness degree, it can change hearts and save lives.

Also pay atten­tion to Black­’s final thoughts on what Trump’s response to the Char­lottesville dra­ma did for the White nation­al­ist move­ment: “I think Tues­day was the most impor­tant moment in the his­to­ry of the mod­ern white nation­al­ist move­ment.” Trump “said there were good peo­ple in the white nation­al­ist ral­ly and he sal­vaged their mes­sage.”

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  • Hanoch says:

    Yes, but the prob­lem is a real lib­er­al arts edu­ca­tion real­ly does­n’t exist any more (out­side a hand­ful of col­leges). The mod­ern uni­ver­si­ty has become ded­i­cat­ed to indoc­tri­na­tion. Genet­ic diver­si­ty is put on a pedestal while diver­si­ty of opin­ion is for­bid­den. Its such a shame.

  • Hanoch says:

    And also, appar­ent­ly, how to sub­sti­tute snark for counter-argu­ment.

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