Campus Free Speech

This Racist Student's Conversion Is the Best Argument Against Safe Space Culture

Derek Black was a white nationalist. Now he's a liberal anti-racist. What changed him? Free speech.


Alexander Raths

Derek Black used to be an up-and-coming leader of the white nationalist movement. His father created Stormfront, the online forums for the white nationalist community. His godfather is David Duke.

That was then. Black is now a liberal who supports immigration, doesn't believe race should divide people, and admires President Obama.

The story of Derek's incredible transformation is many things: a lesson to never give up on people, an affirmation of the power of reason to undermine racism, an inspirational tale of good winning out in the end. But it's also a subtle repudiation of the kind of emotional safe space that liberals want to foist on college campuses. Indeed, if this faction of the left got its way, people like Derek would probably never be allowed on campus in the first place. Derek himself might still be an ardent racist.

The Washington Post's story on Black is worth reading in full—it's one of the very best things you'll read this year. To summarize Derek's childhood: His father, Don Black, was a former Ku Klux Klan member who founded Stormfront and kept close ties to David Duke; Duke, in fact, was Derek's godfather and former romantic partner of his mother; Derek spent his teenage years travelling with his father, meeting other white supremacists, giving speeches, and learning web coding so that he could help run Stormfront. Derek was essentially groomed from birth to lead the white nationalist community—a calling he was eager to heed:

So many others in white nationalism had come to their conclusions out of anger and fear, but Derek tended to like most people he met, regardless of race. Instead, he sought out logic and science to confirm his worldview, reading studies from conservative think tanks about biological differences between races, IQ disparities and rates of violent crime committed by blacks against whites. He launched a daily radio show to share his views, and Don paid $275 each week to have it broadcast on the AM station in nearby Lake Worth. On the air, Derek helped popularize the idea of a white genocide, that whites were losing their culture and traditions to massive, nonwhite immigration. "If we say it a thousand times—'White genocide! We are losing control of our country!'—politicians are going to start saying it, too," he said. He repeated the idea in interviews, Stormfront posts and during his speech at the conference in Memphis, when he was at his most certain.

After high school, Derek decided to enroll in the New College to study history. He decided to keep a low profile: He wouldn't share his views with anyone until after he had made friends. He enjoyed his first semester, and felt like he fit in. But eventually, the campus learned exactly who he was. His friends were shocked. Many people on campus wanted to ostracize him. Others threatened him.

But some students had another idea:

"Ostracizing Derek won't accomplish anything," one student wrote.

"We have a chance to be real activists and actually affect one of the leaders of white supremacy in America. This is not an exaggeration. It would be a victory for civil rights."

"Who's clever enough to think of something we can do to change this guy's mind?"

One of Derek's acquaintances from that first semester decided he might have an idea. He started reading Stormfront and listening to Derek's radio show. Then, in late September, he sent Derek a text message.

"What are you doing Friday night?" he wrote.

That friend was Matthew Stevenson, an Orthodox Jew, and his idea was to invite Derek over for weekly Shabbat dinners attended by a small gathering of students.

The idea worked:

Some members of the Shabbat group gradually began to ask Derek about his views, and he occasionally clarified them in conversations and emails throughout 2011 and 2012. He said he was pro-choice on abortion. He said he was against the death penalty. He said he didn't believe in violence or the KKK or Nazism or even white supremacy, which he insisted was different from white nationalism. He wrote in an email that his only concern was that "massive immigration and forced integration" was going to result in a white genocide. He said he believed in the rights of all races but thought each was better off in its own homeland, living separately.

Week by week, conversation by conversation, Derek softened his views. His new friends challenged him—firmly but politely—and systematically convinced him that he was wrong about everything.

I'm really short-changing an amazing narrative here, so please don't rely on my summary: Read the thing.

My point is this: I have no doubt that the kind of campus-wide public safe space favored by some students at Yale (for instance) would have excluded someone like Derek. These students would have balked at the idea of letting Derek enroll in college at all. They would have described him as a threat to their safety—a person whose very presence on campus was a reminder of both their marginalization and the administration's failure to act. Remember that the Yale mob wanted Nicholas and Erika Christakis to resign because they didn't think the college should take a strong position on offensive Halloween costumes. I can only imagine the mob being even more upset about someone like Derek setting foot on campus.

But giving these students what they want would have made it impossible to have those Shabbat dinners. Ostracizing Derek wouldn't have made him any less racist: on the contrary, it would have driven him further into the arms of the white nationalist movement.

Leftist students accuse supporters of free speech of wanting to shield racism. The truth is exactly the opposite: I support absolute free speech precisely because I want to destroy racism. Good ideas—like racial equality—are at their most powerful when speech is unrestricted.

NEXT: CBS Limps to the Finish Line with Three Lackluster New Shows

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  1. an inspirational tale of good winning out

    Always bet on Black

  2. Alt-text: If a trainload of niggers is going west at 30 mph, and another trainload of niggers is going east at 50 mph…

    1. …then we’ll have to detour the line through the town of Rockridge!

  3. Give him a couple of minutes with the H&R comment section and all that good work will be undone!

  4. Robby, what you are talking about here is the difference between young adults and overgrown children.

  5. I agree the WP read is a must – don’t skip a word or you’ll be kicking yourself. I especially liked the part where they talked about naming your child “Storm”.

    1. The best way to cure white nationalism is some interracial fucking. I refuse to believe that something like that didn’t play at least a small part here. If it didn’t, I feel sad for young Derek, and urge him to get to it to let the lessons really sink in.

      1. +1 Brazil

        1. +2 George Carlin
          +3 Bullworth

      2. I think a racist would have to ditch the racism first before they’d want to do the interracial fucking, much less have much of a chance of convincing someone of another race to let them do that.

        Unless they were a slut and didn’t care much what they put their dick in.

        1. I think a racist would have to ditch the racism first before they’d want to do the interracial fucking

          Seriously? You think the slave owners banging slaves weren’t racists?

  6. OT: Huh, a network problem that’s not my fault.

    Looks like those sneaky fucking Russians, or the Chinese are killing the internet today.…..berattack/

    *closes trouble ticket*

    1. DDos is the new ISIS – radicalizin your chillens.

    2. I’m dealing with that, too?

      *closing support ticket*

  7. “admires President Obama”

    This doesn’t prove he’s not still a racist.

    1. Admiring a racist not of your race…oh, I see.

  8. So a white nationalist leader can see the light, but progs still don’t understand supply and demand…

    Had this discussion with a coworker yesterday —- Caitlyn Jenner being a republican conservative probably did more to advance that cause than if it had just been another garden variety leftist

  9. I’m sorry, but this kid’s actions and those of the people who rehabilitated him are worse than anything his father or godfather have done. They’ve literally robbed the cause of a villain and thus power.

    1. Oh, it’s much worse than that, Fist. They showed that open discussion is a valid path to a better world. It’s as if hate were counterproductive or something.

    2. Apropos of this, I heard that in Michael Moores new film, he actually tries to bridge the divide between him and trump supporters genuinely trying to understand their grievances.

      The problem, as the NPR reviewer noted, was the rest of the movie is essentially a 2 hour stump speech for hillary Clinton.

      1. I can see Moore shill for bernie or stein, but hillary? How do these people look themselves in the mirror?

        1. I really think that most people “get on board” with their “best option”. Michael Moore has made a career out of making political noise, his choice is “or Hillary Clinton” so he’s gonna wave the flag for the team.

          1. I can’t stand this logic. I’m constantly ridiculed for voting for Johnson because he has no chance. My main concern in life is to be able to look at myself in the mirror/have some self respect.

  10. New College, huh? I know a couple people who attended New College. I like them but they are crazy.

    1. My former sister-in-law went to New College. Totally clueless.

  11. Knowing a little something about New College, I’m curious how he was allowed to enroll. It’s not the traditional admission process, and I feel like they would have sniffed some of his background out and nixed him.

    1. I’m curious how he was allowed to enroll

      Its actually an amusing story

  12. The internet was broken so I went outside and I met some people. But I think they might be ISIS. What should I do? Or maybe drug dealers pushing their junk on me. I’m so scared…..

    1. And I think one of them was black too.

    2. If you see something, shoot them in the face.

    3. If strangers are offering y ou drugs you should definitely try them out. Go back outside and tell them yes. Bring cash.

    4. If you see something, say something.
      The cops will soon come around and shoot them down along with any dogs in the area. No questions asked.

      No sense taking any chances, amirite?

  13. Sort of a lateral move.

  14. Kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya.

  15. Of any article on Hit ‘n Run, this was the time to use the photo of a young Derek Black and his dad with Ron Paul.


    1. that was when they were still racists, right? I can only assume that’s a hat only a racist would wear.

      1. Or a covered wagon occupant sure to die of dysentery.

        1. No. I want a do-over…

          I thought the kid from Shane died in a car crash years ago.

  16. It should probably be noted, too, that white nationalism has less influence in American politics than it does in countries without the First Amendment.

    Hate speech is a crime in the UK, denying the holocaust is a crime in France, and guess what? They both have famous political parties that are steeped in white nationalism.

    Here in America, we have none.

    I don’t think that’s because white supremacists are persuaded to change their minds through reason. I suspect the bigger reason is because hate speech laws in the UK and France save the white nationalists from embarrassing themselves.

    If the white nationalists in France and the UK were free to say all the stupid and awful shit that their American counterparts say in public, France’s National Front and the UK’s NF and BNP wouldn’t have enough support to maintain an intergenerational political party.

    Think of it this way: Why is the Westboro Baptist Church so unsuccessful? Is it because its members are persuaded through rational argument or because in exercising their freedom of speech, they embarrass themselves?

    1. Yep – free speech. Banning it radicalizes people – top Nazi propagandists were prosecuted under Weimar anti-Semitic ‘blasphemy’ laws. Europe is just repeating history they know all too well. A lesson which was built into the founding documents of our country – even if most people forget exactly why. That’s ok – some of us remember.

      1. By “some of us,” you mean “Pepperidge Farm,” of course.

      2. I call ’em natural laws because violating them has consistent and predictable consequences regardless of culture or point in history.

        They killed Socrates for his speech. He wanted Athens to become like the Spartans who had just crushed free expression when they held Athens under tyranny. Meanwhile, the Spartans were too scared to take their army too far from Sparta for fear that the helots they were oppressing might revolt.

        The Romans knew all this, and the made all the same damn mistakes themselves anyway. Any culture, any point in history, crush freedom of speech and the same things happen over and over again.

        Dogs and cats are smarter than this with other natural laws like gravity. If doing something gets them hurt, they stop doing it. It doesn’t work that way with homo sapiens and free speech however. Of course we believe in free speech, it’s just that this time it’s different . . . because we’re suppressing the speech of people who are against free speech, you see?

        Same as it ever was.

        1. Well, Socrates was also the only one of the prytaneis to vote against executing the generals after Arginusae, so he tweaked their consciences. He also was rather too close to some of the Thirty Tyrants, which made him even more suspicious, and after they were overthrown his days were probably numbered anyway.

          1. I thought he escaped to San Dimas.

            1. The escape to San Dimas was many years later.

          2. Yeah, too close to the Thirty Tyrants–he wanted to make Athens like Sparta.

            At his trial, someone also piped up that the Spartans he wanted to emulate wouldn’t tolerate his speech. It doesn’t seem to have bothered whomever that was that by convicting Socrates, the jury was acting like the Spartans, too.

            Point is that 2,500 years later, the battle for free speech is still contending with people who claim that this time it’s different–since the speech they want to ban is anti-free speech.

        2. One could argue reverse causality: that governments only feel the need to restrict speech once dissent is brewing and the seeds of revolution have already been planted.

          There is think though a vicious cycle. Once speech is curtailed there is little visible dissent to keep the government from embarking on ever more unpopular policies which the leaders either don’t know or don’t care how unpopular they are, since leaders tend to be surrounded by sycophants.

    2. I’m not familiar with European politics enough to know, but I always just figured that the “white nationalism” I hear about was bullshit there, since it’s bullshit here. If you were in another country and listened to our news you would think half the country is in the KKK.

      Presumably since Europe has a more leftist bent the only thing that increased is the hyperventilating about secret racists, as opposed to an actual increase in them.

      1. “Presumably since Europe has a more leftist bent . . .

        Mostly just on economics and body shame.

        “In the municipal elections held on 23 and 30 March 2014, lists officially supported by National Front won mayoralties in 12 cities . . . . Following the municipal elections, the National Front has, in cities of over 1,000 inhabitants, 1,546 and 459 councilors at two different levels of local government.[154]

        . . .

        The National Front received 4,712,461 votes in the 2014 European Parliament election, finishing first with 24.86% of the vote and 24 of France’s 74 seats.[159] “It was the first time the anti-immigrant, anti-EU party had won a nationwide election in its four-decade history.”[160] The party’s success came as a shock in France and the EU.[161][162] The next year, the National Front went on to win another victory in the first round of the 2015 regional elections on December 6, placing first in 6 of the 13 newly redrawn regions and emerging ahead of both major establishment parties overall.[163] In Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, Marine Le Pen won 40.6% of the vote.[164] National_Front_(France) #2014.E2.80.9315_electoral_successes

        That is kicking ass.

        Marine LePen has polled ahead of the current French President.

  17. In related “Inspirational Stories of Racists Who Became Liberals” =

    We have the story of Prussian Blue, twin-teen-girls who sang half-assed White-Power anthems, who grew up to be weed-smoking progressive “healers”

    They rose to fame as the faces of Neo-Nazi pop band Prussian Blue.

    Now, twin sisters Lamb and Lynx Gaede say they have reformed their extremist ways, blaming their hateful messages of white supremacy on youthful naivete.

    The 19-year-olds, who both have medical marijuana cards, consider themselves ‘healers’ and say they are ‘pretty liberal now’.

    Evidence of their intellectual and moral advancement? =

    Asked whether the Holocaust happened, Lynx replied, ‘I think certain things happened. I think a lot of the stories got misconstrued. I mean, yeah, Hitler wasn’t the best, but Stalin wasn’t, Churchill wasn’t. I disagree with everybody at that time.’

    Lamb added: ‘I just think everyone needs to frickin’ get over it. That’s what I think.’

  18. This “I Once Was Lost But Now Am Found” genre is nice, and all, but how many times has WaPo (or anybody else in the so-called mainstream media) rushed to press with the heartwarming story of some earnest young Marxist who stumbled onto a dog-eared copy of Schumpeter’s work and fell head over heels in love with creative destruction?

    1. Didn’t Schumpeter come around to socialism in his old age?

    2. I was lost once. I came home from junior high school one day and told my dad how great the Soviet Union was cause they had free college and free doctors.
      When I came to about an hour later my dad explained shit to me.

  19. Good ideas?like racial equality?are at their most powerful when speech is unrestricted.

    Really? “Racial equality” barely exists as a concept outside Western Europe and the Anglosphere, precisely where the taboos and laws are most strict.

    1. Racial equality barely exists in the West, unless you mean lip service covering racial bean counting.

      1. Racial equality doesn’t exist in the West for the same reason perpetual motion machines don’t exist. It’s not for a lack of trying.

  20. There is a lesson in this and that lesson is as old as time.

    Dumbasses with wacky beliefs will exchange those for a diametrically opposing yet equally wacky set of beliefs . Especially if the new set is not their parents.

    Preachers daughter syndrome.

    1. yup

      1. Child rebels against parent’s political beliefs and takes opposite position.
        Hmmm. When has that happened before?

  21. “He said he believed in the rights of all races but thought each was better off in its own homeland, living separately.”

    Have any of his newfound associates realized that he was a safe spaces proponent to begin with?

      1. Agreed.

    1. Killed it.

  22. Black is now a liberal who supports immigration, doesn’t believe race should divide people, and admires President Obama.

    1. Killed my comment:

      Liberals believe race should divide people.

  23. This is an inspirational story of how open discussions can amend previously held thoughts. We might want to try it on the 10,000 new Libertarian Party members that, supposedly, have only been attracted because Johnson is a LINO. Or we could simply nominate a fire-breathing purist in 2020 and get to educate the 5 or 10 people attracted to the Libertarian tent.

  24. Indeed an inspiring story, despite its complete lack of curiosity about the landscape of the “far conservative right,” as it terms it, and its historical and currently remaining interfaces with mainstream American politics. Like many self-satisfied and frankly lazily progressive journalism pieces on such topics, it is a wholehearted supporter of the white nationalists’ Manichean vision, in which they are synonymous with “the right” and “leftism” is equated with anti-racism, in which everyone is either a dissembling “race realist” pursuing an incrementalist wedge strategy or a shill for the manifestly larcenous SPLC (the most prominent of the racists’ many symbiotic partners) spouting nonsensical campus-activist buzzwords.
    Still, even through all that, it does (no doubt in spite of itself, and all the more convincingly for it) aptly demonstrate the beautiful power of human social interaction.

  25. Good for Black, but I have a serious problem with the overall theme of “former racist who became a liberal” because it implies that racists cannot be liberals and everyone who is not a liberal is at least potentially a racist.

    Unless we are talking about classical liberals, which I doubt since it was mentioned that Black now admires Obama, then I call bullshit. The least racist people I know are libertarians, i.e. not progressive-style liberals. In my experience, they are truly non-racially biased and judge people –when they judge them at all– as Martin Luther King had wanted.

    By contrast, I’ve seen plenty of blatant racism among liberals. Probably more than from right-wingers/conservatives. And I don’t just mean racist attitudes about whites or Asians, either. Just raise try name-dropping Clarence Thomas or Condie Rice to a left-wing white person and see what kind of reaction you get.

  26. I think it’s better understood as a testiment to the heritability of intelligence.

  27. Ok, so he went from an antagonistic racist to a benevolent racist.

    What was the point you’re trying to make again?

  28. The only possible reason for opposing Obama is racism, and if you purged yourself of your racist thoughts you would come around to love Obama like this retarded kid whose retarded father started a poorly trafficked web forum for other retards 20 years ago.

    Scintillating as ever.

  29. I already saw this movie. I liked the part where ed Norton dunked on the homies

    1. It was a movie with an overarching story that felt a bit trite and melodramatic, which increasingly weighed it down as the movie proceeded, but which in its smaller elements–thanks in large part to the excellent cast, though the writing was good in microcosm too–was a real winner. The fact that you found yourself engaged in that hoops game and actually pulling for the Nazi kids–fuck, I did and I’m Latino!–was just one testament to this. My biggest complaints:
      (1) Not enough Nazi titty
      (2) Capt. Sisko did not say “Spensaaaaaa!” once
      (3) Big plot hole here: If the little brother was shot by the black kid in 1998, how did he grow up to unite humanity against the real enemy?
      (4) Stunt casting: Would Derek Vinyard have changed his mind back to white nationalism if he had known that the brother he was devoting his life to protecting from a Los Angeles gone to shit was, in fact, himself a drug-addled Mexican?

      1. Lol thx for that.

  30. Next story: BLMer came to the conclusion that white people were actually ok; his white progressive friends, alarmed by the regression, donned white hoods and burnt a cross on his front yard to get him back on the right path though, so everything ended up ok.

  31. College student rejects his dad’s politics and embraces the politics which best ingratiates him with his peers in college. Quite the news story there.

  32. until I looked at the paycheck saying $4730 , I did not believe that…my… brother woz like actualy bringing in money part time from there computar. . there friend brother started doing this for less than 7 months and resently paid for the morgage on there home and bought a new Cadillac …….


  33. Ellie . true that Susan `s blurb is good… I just purchased a gorgeous Fiat Panda sincee geting a check for $8891 this-last/4 weeks and also ten grand last-month . this is actually the most financialy rewarding Ive had . I started this 9-months ago and right away was bringin in at least $87, per-hour .


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