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Riding a Wave of Hate

Bryon was a white supremacist sinking into a life of violence and desperation. Find out how he escaped. Read Transcript


MY NAME IS BRYAN

WHITENER, AND I'M A FORMER

NEONAZI SKINHEAD.

NOT ONLY DID HE CHANGE MY

PHYSICALLY, HE BROUGHT LOVE

INTO A WORLD OF HATE AND

VIOLENCE.

WHEN MY RELATIVE INTRODUCED

ME TO BEING A SKINHEAD, I

WAS 14.

WE WERE CALLED SOLDIERS OF

THE NEW RITE.

I WAS BEATEN UP A LOT

BECAUSE I WAS A SKINHEAD IN

A PREDOMINANTLY MEXICAN AREA

OF TOWN.

SO VIOLENCE WAS A VERY, VERY

COMMON THING, SO YOU GET

HARD OR YOU DIE.

THAT'S IT.

Reporter: BRYAN

WHITENER CAME FROM A BROKEN

HOME.

RAISED BY AN ALCOHOLIC

GRANDMOTHER, HE LEARNED FROM

AN EARLY AGE HE HAD TO TAKE

CARE OF HIMSELF.

SO I LEARNED HOW TO

HATE.

I STARTED GETTING TATTOOS AT

ABOUT 14, 15.

AND THE TATTOO THING WAS TO

SISIGNIFY THE TOUGH GUY

LOOK.

I GOT SWAT SWASTIKAS WHEN I

WAS LIKE 15 OR 16.

I KNEW THEY GOT ME IN FIST

FIGHTS QUITE OFTEN.

THAT'S WHY I PUT THEM ON MY

BODY.

THAT'S WHEN I DECIDED I

SHOULD PROBABLY KNOW WHAT

THEY'RE ABOUT, AND I STARTED

HITTING LIBRARIES.

THAT'S WHEN I STARTED

GETTING INTO THE POLITICS.

AND BEFORE IT WAS JUST TO

PISS PEOPLE OFF.

AND EVENTUALLY I THOUGHT

THAT WASN'T THE PLACE FOR ME

AND STARTED TRAVELLING

AROUND THE COUNTRY.

I MET MY FIRST HAMMER SKIN

OUT THERE, AND THEY WERE THE

BIGGEST, BADDEST.

THEY WERE ORGANIZED.

THEY WERE TOUGH.

EVERYTHING ANY SKINHEAD

WOULD WANT.

WHEN I GOT INTO THE HAMMER

KINS SKINS, A LOT OF THE

GUYS HAD FACIAL TATTOOS AND

THEIR HANDS DONE.

I HAD MY HANDS DONE, AND I

ENDED UP GETTING MY NECK

DONE.

JUST FOR THE SHOCK VALUE, IT

STARTED CREEPING UP ON TO MY

FACE.

WE WERE PRETTY OUT OF

CONTROL.

Reporter: WHEN THE GANG

DISINTEGRATED, BRIAN AND A

FEW STARTED A NEW GANG.

WE STARTED SPREADING LIKE

A DISEASE.

I WAS IN CHARGE OF GOING TO

DIFFERENT TOWNS IN INDIANA

AND SETTING UP CHAPTERS.

I WAS THE ENFORCER.

AS A SKINHEAD, MY THINKING

WAS THE WHITE RACE WAS THE

MASTER RACE.

AFTER MY FIRST DECADE, I

DIDN'T REALLY SEE IT THAT

WAY ANYMORE BECAUSE I JUST

KNEW SO MANY WHITE PEOPLE

THAT WERE SUCH SCUMBAGS, I

COULDN'T SAY EVERY WHITE

PERSON IS SO MUCH SUPERIOR

THAN EVERY BLACK PERSON WHEN

I'M SEEING THE COMPLETE

OPPOSITE.

I KIND OF REALIZED THE ONLY

THING I ACHIEVED IN MY LIFE

WAS A BUNCH OF SCARS, A

LEGAL RECORD, AND HALF WAY

SCLEROSIS OF THE LIVER.

THAT'S IT.

I HAVE ACHIEVED NOTHING ELSE

IN LIFE, NOTHING POSITIVE.

I LITERALLY WAS TRYING TO

DRINK MYSELF TO DEATH.

I WAS LOOKING FOR A WAY

OUT.

I WAS DONE.

I HAD GIVEN UP ON LIFE AND

EVERYTHING.

I WAS DONE.

I WAS SICK OF THE VIOLENCE,

BUT I DIDN'T KNOW ANY OTHER

WAY TO BE.

IF I WOULD HAVE TALKED TO

ANYBODY ABOUT THOSE

FEELINGS, THEY WOULD HAVE

CALLED ME A TRADER.

AND I WOULD HAVE BEEN

BRANDED AS SUCH AND PROBABLY

SHOT.

SO I BOTTLED IT UP AND

DRANK.

THAT'S ALL I DID.

Reporter: BRIAN WAS

DEPRESSED AND ON THE EDGE OF

SUICIDE.

THEN HE MET JULIE.

I JUST FELL IN LOVE WITH

HER.

AFTER WE GOT MARRIED, MY

FORMER GANG GOT REAL JEALOUS

OF THE FACT I GOT MARRIED

AND MOVED 10 HOURS AWAY

BECAUSE I WAS NO LONGER

AVAILABLE FOR THEIR

BUSINESS.

I STARTED WORKING FULL-TIME

CONSTANTLY TO PUT FOOD ON

THE TABLE.

RIGHT WHEN MY SON WAS BORN,

THE PRESIDENT ACTUALLY GAVE

ME AN ULTIMATUM, TO CHOOSE

BETWEEN THE GANG OR MY

FAMILY, AND SO I CHOSE MY

FAMILY.

AND THEY SAID, OKAY, THAT'S

FINE.

WE'LL GIVE YOU A PROPER

RETIREMENT, WHICH I DID.

Reporter: BUT IT WASN'T

THAT SIMPLE.

DEATH THREATS STARTED

IMMEDIATELY, AND THEY NEVER

STOPPED.

THEY WOULD CALL AT 3:00

IN THE MORNING AND TALK

ABOUT HOW THEY'RE GOING TO

KILL ME AND KILL THE KIDS.

FOR YEARS, JULIE AND I LIVED

LITERALLY ON RED ALERT.

WE WOULD TAKE TURNS STAYING

UP ALL NIGHT WITH BATS AND

STUFF.

IT WAS A MATTER OF WHEN, NOT

IF.

I'M A PRETTY TOUGH GUY.

I CAN HANDLE MYSELF PRETTY

WELL, BUT AGAINST SEVEN,

EIGHT GUYS, THERE IS NOTHING

I COULD DO.

BUT FOR SOME REASON, JULIE

PICKED UP A BIBLE.

THERE WAS THIS OLD GERMAN

BIBLE, AND SHE STARTED

THUMBING THROUGH IT AND

READING IT AND SHOWED ME A

COUPLE OF PRAYERS.

THE SERENITY PRAYER, AND I

STARTED SAYING THAT IN THE

MORNING TO CALM MYSELF.

WE WENT DOWN TO TENNESSEE

FOR CHRISTMAS ONE YEAR, AND

MY FATHER-IN-LAW -- TO GO

VISIT HIM FOR CHRISTMAS.

MY FATHER-IN-LAW TOOK US TO

HIS CHURCH, A SOUTHERN

BAPTIST CHURCH OUT THERE.

AND SOMETHING HAPPENED.

BUT THE THING WAS, JULIE

FELT THE SAME THING.

I THINK IT WAS ALMOST AT THE

SAME TIME.

SHE LOOKED AT ME, AND SHE

WAS LIKE, DID YOU FEEL

THAT?

AND I WAS, LIKE, YEAH.

WE'VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING.

SO WE STARTED PRAYING AT

THAT POINT, AND PRAYING AND

PRAYING AND READING THE

BIBLE.

AND WE ACTUALLY MADE A

PROMISE TO GOD.

IF YOU HELP US GET OUT OF

THIS ALIVE, WE'LL GIVE OUR

LIVES TO YOU.

IN A COUPLE OF MONTHS, WE

WERE ABLE TO MOVE TO

TENNESSEE, AND WE DID.

AND THE FIRST THING WE DID

WAS PRAISE GOD BECAUSE THERE

WAS NO WAY I COULD HAVE DONE

IT BY MYSELF.

ONCE I WAS ABLE TO EXCEPT

JESUS IN MY LIFE, I WAS ABLE

TO SMILE AGAIN.

I WAS ABLE TO ENJOY A DAY.

I WAS ABLE TO BE POLITE AND

ENJOY LIFE.

TO ENJOY MY CHILDREN.

WHEN HE FILLED ME, IT

PATCHED THE HOLE THAT WAS

ALWAYS LEAKING.

IT HAS BEEN AMAZING.

IT HAS BEEN ABSOLUTELY

AMAZING.

WELL, WHEN I CHANGED INSIDE,

WHEN MY SOUL CONCERN WAS MY

FAMILY AND IT WAS NO LONGER

ABOUT MY RACE OR ABOUT

VIOLENCE.

I HAD TO LOOK EVERY DAY IN

THE MIRROR AND LOOK AT THIS

THING I ACTUALLY MADE

MYSELF.

I GOT TO REALIZE JUST WHAT

KIND OF A MONSTER I WAS

ACTUALLY PROJECTING TO THE

OUTSIDE WORLD.

Reporter: WITH THE PAST

LINGERING ON HIS FACE,

BRIAN'S DESIRE TO LIVE A

NORMAL LIFE SEEMED

HOPELESS.

I WOULD GO OUT TO TRY TO

GET JOBS, AND NOBODY WOULD

TALK TO ME.

PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCES

WERE ALWAYS A MESS.

IT WAS JUST AN ABSOLUTE

NIGHTMARE.

I STARTED LOOKING INTO LASER

REMOVAL, WHICH WAS WAY TOO

EXPENSIVE.

THERE WAS NO WAY I COULD

AFFORD IT.

I STARTED LOOKING AT MEANS

OF USING DERMAL ACIDS AND

BURNING THEM OFF MY SKIN.

Reporter: IN A

DESPERATE MOVE, JULIE

CONTACTED THE SOUTHERN

POVERTY LAW CENTER.

WITH THEIR HELP, THEY

LOCATED AN ANONYMOUS DONOR,

AND BRIAN BEGAN A PAINFUL

TWO-YEAR JOURNEY OF REMOVING

THE TATTOOS.

IT WAS ABSOLUTELY

AMAZING.

WE STARTED DOING LASER AT

VANDERBILT, AND THE DOCTOR

NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE ME

WALK THROUGH THE DOOR.

I HAD SO MUCH COVERAGE, HE

HAD NEVER, EVER TAKEN ON

SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

PHYSICALLY, IT WAS

INCREDIBLY PAINFUL.

IT TOOK ABOUT 23 TO 25

TREATMENTS, BUT EVERYTHING

THAT HAS HAPPENED HAS BEEN

LITERALLY A MIRACLE.

THE REMOVAL.

MY FAMILY IS SAFE.

WE ARE SAFE.

WE HAVE A BEAUTIFUL HOME.

AND I'M WORKING.

AND IT WASN'T MY DOING.

I DIDN'T DO ANY OF THIS.

I'M BARELY A HIGH SCHOOL

GRADUATE.

I'M NOT REALLY ANYTHING.

A FORMER STREET KID.

GOD HAS DONE JUST MIRACULOUS

THINGS IN MY LIFE.

AND NOW I CAN FINALLY GIVE

GLORY WHERE IT IS DUE.

I CAN FINALLY GIVE HIM THE

CREDIT.

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