I don’t usually listen to podcasts. When I’m working at my computer, I prefer tomb-like quiet. My commute is one flight of stairs. And when I run, I listen to an embarrassing mix of country, rap, and Beyoncé.
But this morning I couldn’t run, because all my running bras were in the wash. So, I walked two miles instead. For some reason, power walks require podcasts, not an embarrassing mix of country, rap, and Beyoncé. I pulled up The New York Times’ podcast, The Daily (Tuesday, August 22) on Spotify.
Michael Barbaro interviewed Derek Black, a former white nationalist whose father was the former grandmaster of the KKK. Black grew up with those people. His father also ran one of the big white supremacist websites. Black started up his own blog for white supremacist kids at age 12.
In the podcast, he describes the ideas that are at the root of the movement. For example, he says that they don’t just hate black people. Anti-Semitism is a big part of their ideology, as we saw on display at Charlotteville. The members wouldn’t describe themselves as a hate group. They just think that the world would be better, if different people lived in their own zones. They oppose globalism. Lots more in the podcast.
And then he went to college. And his views changed. His views didn’t change because professors were indoctrinating him or yelling at him. No, his views changed because he became good friends with an observant Jew, who even knowing about Black’s political views, invited him every week to Shabbat services at his house. There, around the table, he talked politics and social ideas with the other guests. They slowly, over the course of the year and during many conversations, convinced Black that he was wrong about his ideas. They brought information and studies to show him that countered the arguments that he had grown up believing.
THAT IS HOW IT SHOULD HAPPEN. THAT IS HOW WE CHANGE PEOPLE’S MINDS. WITH CALM REASONABLE DISCUSSIONS. BY ENCOURAGING CONVERSATION, NOT BY SHUTTING IT DOWN. BY INVITING OPPONENTS INTO OUR HOMES AND SHARING IDEAS AND FOOD.
Okay, rant over.
Black walked away from the white supremacists. His family barely speaks to him anymore. And the pain of the rejection was palpable on the podcast.
He talked about the content of Trump’s speeches and pointed out lines — lines that were meaningless to me — that echoed and supported white supremacist messages. White supremacists, he said, were a small fringe movement, but some of their ideas have been absorbed by Republicans.
Why is this Black guy not a regular on CNN? He knows more about the movement than any of the other pundits that their show. I learned more from this podcast than I did from hours and hours of CNN viewing this week.