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

by Eli Saslow

Paperback, 2019



Call number




Anchor (2019), Edition: Reprint, 304 pages


"From a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, the powerful story of how a prominent white supremacist changed his heart and mind Derek Black grew up at the epicenter of white nationalism. His father founded Stormfront, the largest racist community on the Internet. His godfather, David Duke, was a KKK Grand Wizard. By the time Derek turned nineteen, he had become an elected politician with his own daily radio show - already regarded as the "the leading light" of the burgeoning white nationalist movement. "We can infiltrate," Derek once told a crowd of white nationalists. "We can take the country back." Then he went to college. Derek had been home-schooled by his parents, steeped in the culture of white supremacy, and he had rarely encountered diverse perspectives or direct outrage against his beliefs. At New College of Florida, he continued to broadcast his radio show in secret each morning, living a double life until a classmate uncovered his identity and sent an email to the entire school. "Derek Black...white supremacist, radio host...New College student???" The ensuing uproar overtook one of the most liberal colleges in the country. Some students protested Derek's presence on campus, forcing him to reconcile for the first time with the ugliness his beliefs. Other students found the courage to reach out to him, including an Orthodox Jew who invited Derek to attend weekly Shabbat dinners. It was because of those dinners--and the wide-ranging relationships formed at that table--that Derek started to question the science, history and prejudices behind his worldview. As white nationalism infiltrated the political mainstream, Derek decided to confront the damage he had done. Rising Out of Hatred tells the story of how white-supremacist ideas migrated from the far-right fringe to the White House through the intensely personal saga of one man who eventually disavowed everything he was taught to believe, at tremendous personal cost. With great empathy and narrative verve, Eli Saslow asks what Derek's story can tell us about America's increasingly divided nature. This is a book to help us understand the American moment and to help us better understand one another"-- "From a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, a powerful account of Derek Black's journey from white supremacist hero to apostle of tolerance"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member lisapeet
Really interesting story of Derek Black, a young man who was raised to be the successor to the White Nationalist movement, and how he turned away from that world once he went off to college, was befriended by a diverse (and idealistic) group of people, and eventually opened his eyes to how
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misguided and destructive those beliefs were. Which sounds incredibly simplistic, but to Saslow's credit the book is never melodramatic, didactic, or dumbed down—nor is it sensationalistic, even when laying out the foundations of the White Nationalists and how they spin their particular brand of nastiness. The story takes place at a very human level, and what actually drives Black's transformation is the compassion, and persistence, of his peers. Which sounds almost too good to be true but a) Saslow is a good reporter who obviously had full cooperation from his sources, and I believe him and b) Black was such a star of the White Nationalist movement because of the family he was born into, but also because he was very smart, very inquisitive, something of a polymath. Whatever other enormous ideological flaws his parents had, they apparently raised him to seek out the answers to his own questions, and he did.

It's actually pretty encouraging for these dark times—that such great personal change can come out of simple actions: kindness, patience, the exchange of ideas. I know, crazy talk, right? But if you can't believe in that you may as well give up now. This is a good read—straightforward, but also just a little hopeful.
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LibraryThing member Darcia
So... Wow. The content is powerful, the writing is exceptional, and I would love for everyone to read this book.

I've been derisively called a "bleeding heart liberal" by people who believe tolerance and open-mindedness are weaknesses. Over the past few years, I've been reading a lot about the
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growing chasm between the political left and right, trying to understand this division, but no article or book I've come across lays it out as clearly as this one. The art - and yes, it is an art - of hate politics is stripped bare, so we're shown exactly how and why it works as probably the most effective manipulation tool.

I could go on about this book for hours, but those discussions are best saved for after you've read it. I'll sum up my thoughts this way: I am deeply moved and impressed by Derek Black. His willingness to explore new ideas, his open-mindedness, his bravery in stepping out on his own, and his ability to break away from what is essentially a cult mindset inspired me and gave me hope. And I'm grateful to Eli Saslow, one of only a handful of writers with the kind of immense talent necessary to pull this off.

*I received an advance ebook copy from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.*
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LibraryThing member deusvitae
A compelling, hard to put down narrative of the life and transformation of Derek Black, scion of the white nationalist movement.

The author has put to good use a lot of primary sources and information from interviews to set forth the story of Derek's life: his origins, the backstory of his father
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and his exploits, his development and advancement in white nationalism and his work with his father on the Stormfront website, and then his experiences at the New School in Sarasota, Florida, and how the combination of hospitality from some practicing Jewish students and a strong relationship with a girl who was committed to helping him get away from the white nationalist movement, and the otherwise general isolation he experienced because of his belief system, forced him to reconsider his assumptions, looked at what the data really said, and saw how his viewpoint caused great damage to other people, and thus his exit from the white nationalist movement, and the effects it had on his relationship with his family. Meanwhile, the author does well at showing how the kind of argumentation which Derek pioneered ended up becoming a major force among some in the "Tea Party," then the Trump campaign and administration, and the growth of the alt-right.

The author has done extremely well at telling the story and portraying the Black family for what it is and what it believes about as fairly as can be done, and it helps the reader to better understand the deep-seated fears and prejudices of the white nationalist movement.

To think this whole thing is the brainchild of three people, essentially, and has become such a force in modern day politics is a bit distressing. Perhaps some will be moved by experience, reason, and evidence like Derek was; but the shunning and other forms of protest also plays a part, even if the impulse toward these things are not always noble, and often in excess.

Highly recommended reading.

**--galley received as part of early review program
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LibraryThing member HandelmanLibraryTINR
From a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, the powerful story of how a prominent white supremacist changed his heart and mind
LibraryThing member splinfo
What a look at a world that is altogether invisible to me. A young (brainwashed) home-schooled kid is headed toward being a role as leader of the international white supremacy when his college experience opens his eyes. That part of the book is encouraging and tender. The shaping of Derek Black by
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a hate culture however couldn't be more sobering. Key insight into our current culture. Scary.
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LibraryThing member larryerick
The title implies that this book is about a specific "former white nationalist". To a degree, it certainly is, but the narrative, in my mind, goes through stages which shift the emphasis. The main subject is the heir apparent to the -- oops, let's pause a moment.

We have David Duke, the former KKK
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Grand Master. Duke is long time friend and "kindred spirit" of Don Black. Let's call them "White Supremacists". Whites are good. Non-whites are bad. Get the non-whites out of here. Things shift. Duke divorces his wife and starts to gain more adherents by adjusting his message to sound more mainstream. Less emphasis on supremacy. More emphasis on nationalism. Whites are still good, it's not so much about non-whites being bad. We whites just don't want them anywhere near us. Result? There's still the goal of an all-white nation. Non-whites, please get out. And hurry up about it. No offense. In the meantime, good Duke friend, Black, marries Duke's ex-wife. Black and new wife bring to life the new heir apparent of the (now) White Nationalism movement. Don Black runs Stormfront, the central forum for all things white nationalist (and white supremacist, if you're paying attention.) Young Derek Black grows up constantly, intimately, directly helping dad with his favorite hobby of spreading the word. Everyone, dad, mom, old friend and ex-husband, Duke, and the entire Stormfront community, assume young Derek will take over eventually and make things even better for the nice little white community.

Sorry, there's a complication a brewing. Derek is quite smart, inquisitive, and, somewhat amazingly, able to separate interactions with others for just being -- well -- human, from his preference for group interactions, such as, hey, you non-white guys, get out of here. So, in going to a diverse, liberal college, where he wants to learn new things and is quite good at doing so -- just ask his professors -- he can do all that while not feeling compelled to tell his Jewish, Latino, and other friends that they will eventually have to get the hell out of Dodge. Unfortunately, his status as White Nationalism heir apparent becomes quite well known to the college community. The community is not happy.

Shift. A small cadre of the community -- the "friends" he had before it became known he was Satan's seed -- want to adjust his thinking. Slowly. It's complicated, but eventually, an initially reluctant member female of the "transition" team, starts to dominate the process. In all the ways that the young White Nationalist is unique, this "de-programmer" is unique in her own way. Extraordinarily persistent, remarkably nuanced. In my mind, nobody would be reading this book if not for her. There would be nothing besides the very obvious to write about.

Shift, again. The transition is complete. (The journey is detailed and worthwhile for the reader.) Son and father try to communicate like old times, when not doing Stormfront things, like fishing. Derek remains his tolerant, personal communications self. Dad never signs up for the same transition. Sad. Very, very sad.

I will throw out a thought that is never mentioned by the author. Religion. If you look at how the central character gets embedded into his philosophy about white nationalism/supremacy, it really is no different than how the vast number of people all over the world get embedded into their religions. From their earliest days, their parents, their extended families, their default community, emphasize and reemphasize how they should think about basic values. I am not saying this to equate White Nationalism to any or all religions. I'm just pointing out how the thoughts of individuals can become so ingrained that thinking otherwise becomes all but impossible for many.

And that brings me to my final point, which is the value to the "disbeliever" in White Nationalism, in reading this book, to gasping exactly what they are dealing with when they are confronted with someone who is a believer. This books really lays out how and why the David Dukes of the world think the way they do. Agree or disagree, but ultimately understand. At least you will know what you're dealing with.
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
Rising Out of Hatred, Eli Saslow, author; Scott Brick, narrator
Is it possible for me to write an honest review of this book without being crushed by hateful comments in this angry election season rife with protests? I am not sure, however, at my own peril, I will try to write a brief description of
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my honest thoughts about this book. Judging from other reviews, I believe few people on the right have read it.
Essentially, Eli Saslow has branded me as a racist or worse, a white supremacist, if I do not agree with the premise and principals expressed in his book. Neither judgment would be accurate or fair, but if anyone reads this book and does not fact check or attempt to learn about both sides of the issue, since especially today it is so volatile, that is the name with which I will be branded. As a matter of fact, he even mentions in one context, that if you say you are not a racist, you most definitely are. Therefore, agree with him or you are damned. It is for that reason that I gave the book only 2 stars. Had the author presented an unbiased critique, rather than a piece of propaganda that attempts to trash President Trump, and his supporters, without highlighting any of his accomplishments for minorities, I would have given it 5 stars.
The story of Derek Black is interesting, as he attempts to free himself from the hate and the hateful environment in which he was raised. It would have been more inspirational had his difficult road been presented in a fair and unbiased way, absent of the politics. I believe that there is no excuse for Saslow’s false presentation of not only my position and concerns, but of the position of anyone who rejects all of his judgments.
I do not believe that you can have reform in a society that paints one group with a broad brush to blame it and uses the same broad brush to excuse a group it paints as its polar opposite. We cannot be expected to believe that there are no alternative views allowed, regarding the idea that racism exists. We can all agree that racism is a horrendous problem, but we cannot all agree that we are all racists if we disagree with some of the precepts presented. Saslow attempts to sully the word white whenever it is joined to descriptive words like nationalism, conflating it with Nazis or National Socialists. He does not do that with the word Socialism because it fits his narrative in favor of the liberal platform. I found it a bit unnerving that he wrote this book before the world exploded with marches against police brutality, almost as if there was a master plan in the works to promote the protesters before the 2020 election, and he knew that it was coming to disrupt it.
Briefly, the author presents the story of Derek Black, raised in the home of virulent white supremacists, who for decades, harbored a wish to rid the country of all non-white residents, albeit, with non-violent means. Don Black founded Stormfront, the largest racist community on the internet and Derek’s godfather is David Duke, the Grand Wizard of the KKK. The group promotes the theory of white genocide, which is a myth but rouses the troops. Supremacists glom onto it like flies to honey. Derek is viewed as the great white hope of these White Nationalists, the man to follow his father, Don. As Derek comes of age and is more socialized, meeting people from all walks of life, their influence forces him to rethink his position as their future leader and current very important spokesperson of this group his father leads. He begins to realize how heinous is the attitude that he has been supporting and that his family has been encouraging. How he comes to change his mind, using his influence to change the minds of others, comes to light in this book.
However, the valuable message is tainted by the completely radical left wing view of the author which is front and center and demeans the message by telling only one side of the story, the side promoting Saslow’s political leanings. When you get to the final chapters, you realize that all of the subtly presented insults peppering the book, about Trump and his supporters, begin to scream and screech with a louder voice. He criticizes without giving any credit, he smears with innuendo and without proof, he uses highly insulting language. He cites the fact that white people overwhelmingly supported President Trump but makes no mention of the fact that the black community overwhelmingly supported Obama, as did the white community.
Saslow disregards the fact that racism became a far greater problem during Obama’s Presidency because of many of the decisions his administration made. For instance, the investigation of the New Black Panther's interference in elections was dropped by his wingman, Attorney General Eric Holder. Then we had Obama's knee jerk reaction and immediate condemnation of the Police when they approached a black man that they did not know was a professor breaking into his own house. His comment that Trayvon Martin could have been his son, without owning that there are murders committed by people that could also have been his son, was disingenuous. Nowhere in this book does Saslow condemn Obama for the climate that encouraged the White Supremacists to support Trump, he merely decides that Trump is using their slogans, although he is not using the words in the same way. In no place does he discuss how Trump has advantaged the communities of color, although there is an abundance of information available. Articles by Larry Elder, Candace Owens, Pastor Darrell Scott, Ben Carson, and many others, inform the community about the First Step Act, Opportunity Zones, the additional funding for black schools and colleges, prison reform, and improved employment opportunities, among other things. Further the author suggests that West Palm Beach is overwhelmingly Republican and voted for Trump. As a Florida resident, I find it hard to believe. Since Palm Beach County, of which West Palm Beach is a part, is a bastion of liberalism which this article explains. According to one source, bestplaces.net, “Palm Beach County, Florida is leaning liberal. In Palm Beach County, FL 56.2% of the people voted Democrat in the last presidential election, 40.9% voted Republican, and the remaining 2% voted Independent. Palm Beach County voted Democratic in the previous five Presidential elections.” The author has used his pen to spin the information to present his opinion, but has not necessarily presented facts.
The author presents a well-deserved highly negative view of David Duke and his rejuvenation of the KKK, but he never mentions that it was the original tool of the Democrats, with the longest serving Democrat Congressman having led a local chapter. Congress honored Robert Byrd and accepted his apology, an attitude of forgiveness for sins that they do not afford to others on the right and Bryd’s sin was egregious, wanting to rid the country of “race mongrels”.
Therefore, I do not recommend this book. Surely there are books about Derek Black that are not as partisan as Saslow has shown himself to be. It is the moment of truth that Derek Black reaches that is the important message of this book, not Saslow’s politics. Derek Black realized, through the relationships he developed with all types of people that he treasured, that members of his family were sadly misguided. Still, he never cut all ties with them, and hoped to either change their views or at least to remain a limited member of his family.
Because we are living in a climate of censorship, with angry protests shutting down any dissenting voices with hateful name calling and condemnation, I will write no more than I already have. However, personally, I do not believe that it is criminal, disrespectful or shameful to consider groups like Black Lives Matter that wants to defund the police, or Antifa that encourages violence, as problematic. When they object to all law enforcement, I have to question their motives. There is room for discussion, but not with groups that shout it down.
The author has used half truths to promote his liberal agenda. He has also engaged in despicable adjectives to make sure that the reader dislikes the President and any of his supporters.
I despise White Nationalism, White Supremacy and Racism, but I support free speech! If you want equality, you should want it for all people, not just those who echo your own opinions. The book is a piece of propaganda to promote his agenda.
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LibraryThing member GShuk
I could not put this down.
What I enjoyed most was how it explored peoples different approaches to those with conflicting core belief systems.
It also made more clear Trumps effect on this group, although that was not the focus of the book.
LibraryThing member DennisBratcher
Very useful and informative. When confronting an alien and alienating point-of-view it is hard to remain compassionate in listening but firm in your own views. The interpersonal give and take, the realization that whether you change or not people whom you hold dear will be hurt is very helpful.
LibraryThing member LukeGoldstein
We’ve all seen the debate about ‘Nature vs. Nurture’. Are parts of our personalities hardwired into our DNA or is everything about us determined by how we’re raised? Reading 'Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a White Supremacist' by Eli Saslow puts hefty weight on ‘Nurture’. Even
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more, this isn’t just any white supremacist, this is the once and future king of the White Power movement.

'Rising Out of Hatred' details a lot of information about the White Power movement. The birth, growth, and momentum right up to today, but it all ties into the poignant story of Derek Black. A disarmingly polite, stunningly intelligent young redhead, Derek was born into hate. His father, Don Black, is a former KKK Grand Wizard and creator of the largest online hate site, Stormfront.org. As Derek grew up, he followed in his fathers footsteps, but quickly surpassed Don’s computer and technical know-how. 11-year-old Derek had already created two websites, one was family friendly, in contrast the other was kids.stormfront.org, full of racist songs and cartoons for kids to soak up. Well, only white kids, that is.

It was readily apparent as Derek grew up, he would be the face of the movement. He would help transition it past the nationally unappetizing days of cross burnings and vulgar epithets to the camera-ready, well dressed faux-intellectual “White Rights Movement.” Now their messages of hate were spouting on TV broadcasts, news and politics shows, and national college speaking tours. If you weren’t listening closely, you might even begin to agree with them. Instead of saying “Get the *!@ out of our country!”, now they were saying “Multiculturalism creates friction between groups and society would be better served if the groups were completely separated.”.

Derek delivered the hateful and noxious party line from the extreme right, but was soft-spoken, attentive, and patient. He never debated in a way to make the other person look dumb. He always sounded as if he was doing a community service educating the unknowing masses. It was all pseudo-scientific facts supporting the same decades old racist message. Eli Saslow captures it all in an effortlessly readable narrative. Even the most ardent supporter of the most vile and violent hate group could question those beliefs by just talking to the people they’re supposed to hate.

Then Derek decided to attend New College in northern Florida, far outside his white sheet-covered bubble. He found hating outright the people he met there was tougher than he thought. He became friends with people from all walks of life. Plus his first dating experience there was with a Jewish girl, which also led to his first heartbreak. A magazine interview got published outing his racist thoughts and roots and his girlfriend couldn’t stomach it. Saslow relates this nicely, "In the past, the victims of his rhetoric had always been out of sight on the other side of the curtain, imaginary enemies nursing imaginary wounds, but now he had seen the injuries firsthand."

After it went viral on campus, it was the beginning of the end for the future hate leader. Many people taunted him, screamed in his face, and debated in all caps on the campus online forum. The question was whether the school should kick him out.

This specific point is one to remember. New College at the time was as left as left could get. Yet an overwhelming amount of the students did not want to debate Derek. They did not want to try and reason with him to change his heart. They wanted him gone. An upperclassmen began pointing out that complete exclusion of Derek was against their stated core beliefs. Friends he made before the interview went out made a specific effort to invite Derek to a weekly Shabbat dinner. It included a rotating guest list, all of whom wanted nothing to do with Derek at first. After weeks upon weeks of Derek showing up, some of the ice began to crack. Matthew, who hosted the dinners, had long discussions into the night about Derek’s views and why they were harmful.

A new girlfriend came into the picture. She stuck by Derek through everything, persistently challenging him to read studies, lectures, and books. All the material was pushing back against all the “facts” he was repeating from memory. Like a tenacious drill instructor, she refused to back down. Finally, he not only changed his beliefs, but also quit Stormfront.org and left the White Nationalist movement. Eventually he took the final and biggest step by publishing an open letter on the New College forum once and for all renouncing everything.

Derek thought long and hard on this because his family, which he loved and cares deeply for, were likely going to banish him as a result. He was absolutely on point with that fear. His father was one of the very few who reached out at all. Don was heartbroken and reeled in a delusion for months thinking he could talk Derek back into the fold.

'Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist' by Eli Saslow shows the power of humanity and persistence in the face of one of the most powerful hate groups in the country. One conversation led to more conversations and more beyond that until truth overwhelmed fear. It’s a lesson everyone on any side of an issue should take to heart.

*Reviewer’s Note: This book was sent to me for the purpose of writing a review, but neither the publisher or the book being sent to me affected the outcome of the review.*
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Physical description

304 p.; 7.87 inches


052543495X / 9780525434955
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