Gaining a new perspective can be a life-changing experience. But few Americans understand this better than Christopher Buckley. After serving his country in the War on Terror, Buckley developed what he called ¨an addiction to hate¨ leading him into the clutches of the Ku Klux Klan. The now-former member of the ¨Georgia White Knights¨ grew to benefit from the privilege of perspective, with his recent op-ed for CNN gaining national attention. The reformed white supremacist visits us today to discuss a path forward through understanding.
0:18 A Clear Statement of Intent
Although the so-called ¨Million MAGA March¨ did not technically live up to its billing, the statement made by this civilian show of force is undeniable. Thousands of die-hard Trump supporters descended on the capital 14 Saturday to protest the results of the 2020 election, in which the incumbent was defeated. This resistance to a free and fair democratic process represent a fragile moment for our nation, as the protest was inundated with white supremacist hate groups such as the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and the 3 Percenters.
3:02 Love Conquers All
After returning from Afghanistan with the mantle of ´hero,´ he joined the most notorious hate group in the nation, the Ku Klux Klan. He spent years espousing their hateful rhetoric, doing untold damage to its targets and victims along the way. Although Buckley immersed himself in ideologies of hate for most of his adulthood, it was love that offered him a new path in life. It was his wife that was able to finally reach through to his humanity, staging an intervention in the hopes of giving the man she fell in love with the chance to truly assimilate into society.
4:32 Bred into Bigotry
In attempting to humanize his descent into a culture of hatred, Buckley looks back to his formative years in Cleveland. At the time, the city was effectively segregated, with whites and Hispanics taking up residence on the west side of town and blacks shunted to the east. School integration became a flashpoint in this environment, and a rapidly changing world eventually drew the latent racism from both his parents. Although they put on a polite facade in public, behind closed doors their bigotry toward nonwhites was casual, open, and virulent.
8:05 Hurt People Hurt People
Another aspect of the pain that drove Buckley to his violent worldview was the experience of being molested as a child by a male member of his family. This triggered a lifelong revulsion to relationships between same-sex partners, an idea he now denounces as unfair and nonsensical. Years of reflection went into moving past his fear and suffering. Childhood trauma is often a defining factor in the development of an adult, and the ex-Klansman places a significant share of blame with the man who hurt him in his most vulnerable years.
11:03 A Dark New Chapter
Seemingly rejected by his community, Buckley sought out some form of solidarity by joining the military after high school. He was stationed in Afghanistan, where his warped worldview offered him a new target for his inner pain: Muslims. Here, Islamophobia ran rampant through the ranks as a way of dehumanizing the perceived enemy and make the taking of life easier to accept. In his view, his hate was nurtured by military practices, with widespread use of racial slurs among soldiers and rifle training conducted on Islamic-themed targets.
16:37 Hate on the Homefront
Upon returning home from his tour of duty, Buckley´s life slid further into the abyss. He broke his back in a Humvee accident during a domestic operation, leaving him with an addiction to painkillers. The weight of his years pressed down on his spirit in the following years, making him a ripe target for the chronic discontent of white supremacist hate groups. Finding acceptance in fringe corners of the Internet, he was quickly recruited into the Klan and after some time moved into a position of influence in the organization.
19:18 Seeing Past the Circumstances
By all accounts, Christopher Buckley finds himself rehabilitated from his past. Renowned anti-racist educator Jane Elliot, originator of the ¨Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes¨ exercise, joins the conversation to offer insight on what drives a man to live for hatred. For Elliot, Buckley reflects a common narrative in the history of hate groups. Feeling shunned by society, these overlooked men find strength in numbers and unity against ¨the other.¨ Like Buckley, she likens the phenomenon to a drug addiction…one that, hopefully, can be effectively treated.