Derek Black grew up surrounded by Confederate flags and white nationalists. He would, before attending college, call himself one.
“It was my life,” Black told The New York Times’ Michael Barbaro on the podcast “The Daily.”
Everyone around him, Black said, believed in segregation for the white “master race.”
Black, whose godfather was former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, comes from a long line of white nationalists. His father, Don Black, also worked for the KKK and started Stormfront, one of the first and now largest white supremacist websites.
Black recalls seeing prominent KKK members stop by his house throughout the 1990s, and he even started a version of Stormfront for children when he was young.
Black was confident in his beliefs. After Barack Obama was elected president, Black started running the Republican committee of his parish and would regularly give speeches on why Obama’s presidency would lead to America’s decay.
“You could win these positions maybe as long as you didn’t get outed as a white nationalist and get all the controversy that comes along with it,” Black said.
It was only when Black left home in 2010 to attend a liberal-arts college that he started making friends with people of different backgrounds and political views — all while still hosting a white nationalist radio show for his dad’s site.
“Trying to live both of those lives was terrifying because I knew that one day somebody was going to type my name into Google,” Black told The Times.
But despite having espoused deeply racist and anti-Semitic views for most of his young-adult days, Black said, he later made a Jewish friend who would invite him to Shabbat dinners and community events.
“He doubted that he was going to convince me of anything,” Black said. “He just wanted me to see a Jewish community thing.”
Later, they started arguing about white nationalist views, using studies and statistics to try to convince the other. With time, Black, recalled, he started losing faith that his side and the statistics he was getting through Stormfront were correct — and he eventually told his family he did not want to identify with the white nationalist movement anymore.
“I got to a point where I didn’t believe it anymore,” said Black, who wrote an essay on leaving the white nationalist movement that The Times published in 2016.
He now regularly speaks out on why he believes Trump’s presidency is dangerous to people and tries to get white nationalists to move away from the movement.
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