Life After Hate: Former Neo-Nazi Shares Her Thoughts And Experiences


Angela King, a white supremacist, shared her transformation from an extremist to founding a deradicalization organisation in her interview to BBC.

King had been raised in an ultra conservative family in South Florida attending baptist school and Catholic Church services.

"My mother used to say to me, 'I will never stop loving you... except you better never bring home a black person or a woman," she said.

But she was a gay and kept it secret.

"From very early on I felt I was abnormal because I was attracted to people of the same sex."

King grew up and became part of violent white supremacist gangs. They hated black people, Jews and were homophobic.

"We drove around all pumped up and started talking about what a race war would be like in the US," she recalled one of the incidences when her group beat some people in a bar.

 "We talked about how it was OK to hurt people who aren't like us and we decided to go and find a place to rob."

They then went on to rob a Jewish clerk for which she was later arrested.

"I had tattoos all over my body. I had Vikings tattooed on my chest, a swastika on my middle finger and 'Sieg Heil' on the inside of my bottom lip, which was the Hitler salute," King says.

King first went to a public school when she was 10 where she struggled with her weight and self-confidence, and was bullied.

She fought back with violence and joined a neo-Nazi punk rock group.

"These younger skinheads were known as 'fresh cuts'," King says.

"I joined them because they accepted my violence and anger without question."

Soon she started to hang out with older skinheads and joined a violent white extremist group.

"They told me that Jews had owned the slave ships and had brought black people to America to endanger the white race.

"It sounds ridiculous but when you are uneducated or trying to fit in, you soak up the new reality like a sponge."

“The neo-Nazi beliefs didn't feel like a stretch from what I already knew,” Kings says of how she was first drawn to far-right ideology.

“I did not always feel hatred. It started with fear of the unknown. The fear turned into anger. The anger into hate. The hate into violence. At that young age, I internalised a great deal of bullying and negativity. I dehumanised myself and thought it was OK to do the same to others.”

Angela was sentenced to prison in 1999
“Although the beliefs are not what initially drew me into it. It was that I was accepted: anger, violence, and all. It became easier for me to blame others and to justify my own actions and insecurities by claiming superiority. I wasn't superior. I was an angry young woman who had suffered bullying, abuse, was self-destructive, irresponsible, and a high school dropout with no self-esteem.”

In 1998 King, 23, was arrested on robbery charges and taken to the Federal Detention Centre in Miami and later jailed for five years.

Her experience is prison with people from different cultures and backgrounds changed her.

"I was in the recreation area smoking when a Jamaican woman said to me, 'Hey, do you know how to play cribbage?'"

"I hadn't really known any people of colour before, but here were these women who asked me difficult questions but treated me with compassion," King says.

One black women even helped hide her racist past by stealing a newspaper which had an article about King's case.

Later another Jamaican woman who initially disliked her for her past confronted her.

"People said she had been in violent gangs and was a real badass. One day as I passed, she asked: 'How do you even get to be like that?' I stopped and answered her as fully and honestly as I could."

The two began to connect to their similar experiences and slowly became very close friends.

"We realised we had fallen in love with each other. We were like, 'How on Earth did this happen?'"

"We spent a lot of time together talking and shared a cell for a while. It got quite serious but we had to keep it secret."

King was released in 2001 and their relationship ended but it gave her a new life, without hate.

"I was very honest about my past. I found acceptance in the gay community and realised I wasn't alone."
Angela earned a degree in sociology and psychology after
getting released.

King then studied sociology and psychology, explored extremism, met other former extremists and even visited a Holocaust survivor. She is also doing public speaking since then.

"I was excited to meet other people who had got involved in violent extremism and then got out. I wasn't alone," King says.

"People in extremist groups wrap their entire identities around it. Everything in their life has to be changed, from the way they think, to the people they associate with, to dealing with permanent tattoos."

She then joined two Americans who had founded a blog called Life After Hate and with them made it a non-profit organisation for deradicalization.

The organisation educates people about the threats of violent extremism and researches the individual-level pathways into and out of extremism.

"I have a lot of healthy guilt about who I was and the things I did to hurt others and myself. But I know I would not have been able to do this work had I not had those experiences," she says.

A group of around 60 former extremists provide peer support to each other. The recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been particularly difficult to deal with.

"Current events can bring up guilt and shame," King says.

In January 2017, the Obama administration awarded the group $400,000 as part of an anti-extremism grant. However, in June 2017 under President Donald Trump the grant was discontinued but King says personal donations are helping meet the targets.


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