Archive for August, 2017

That time I tried to be friends with a white supremacist…

August 18th, 2017 No comments

Like many of you, the events in Charlottesville last weekend have shaken me to my core. In some respects, I feel like I contributed to allowing America’s Nazis to have such a platform. Why? Because I had been one of those people who suggested that we need to listen to them and have discussions with them. I had been one of those people who have said, but no, free speech, they must be allowed to voice their opinions.  Yup, I was one of those people, like so many of you…


You figured I would have learned my lesson when it comes to Nazis, but time made it easy to forget that I once tried to be friends with white supremacist. It’s a story I haven’t shared publicly, but I think it’s time. Why? Because I think Canadians assume we are immune to this sort of activity, but we’re not. And for every one of you suggesting that we try to be listen to them, read my story, and then go watch the Vice Documentary on Charlottesville. Then come back and tell me that we should try and come to some sort of consensus with these fascists fucks.

My story happened in the mid-90’s in a small city in Eastern Ontario. That was the summer that the Nazis came to town and started recruiting. That was the summer that I found out one of my childhood friends was married to a Nazi and was expecting his baby.  Except, they didn’t call themselves Nazis. They called themselves nationalists pronouncing the virtues of ‘white pride’.

I’m not even sure where to begin, because it still baffles me that I hung out with these people and pretended to like them. I guess my loyalty to my childhood friend, overrode my rationale thinking at the time. I was also quite confused because her husband (said nationalist) was attending school on a First Nations scholarship. Yes, you read that right. So, he couldn’t really be racist… at least that’s what my young mind thought. Turns out racism comes in many different colours.

It had been many many years since I had seen my childhood friend, Lucy (not her real name) and I was pleasantly surprised that she knew my boyfriend, Chuck (not his real name). They had been friends at a different time and place in their life journeys. Too cool, I thought. She introduced us to her husband, Biff (not his real name), and told us that her and her hubby were going to have a baby. I couldn’t have been more excited for her. So, we decided to get together and catch up… that’s when things got really weird.

Chuck and I went to their house to visit them. Now Chuck was often mistaken for a skinhead because he had a shaved head, wore big black army boots, and was covered in tattoos. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when Biff started talking to him about a white pride movement called the Heritage Front. As I sat catching up with Lucy, I watched from the corner of my eye as Biff and Chuck engaged in a lengthy dialogue about immigrants taking our jobs and the watering down of white heritage. It made me uncomfortable, but what harm was there in just talking to them, right? They should be allowed to voice their opinions, too, right?

Later that night, Chuck and I went home and we talked about what had happened. Chuck brushed the conversation off as harmless and then handed me some literature Biff had given him to take home and read. It was a newsletter from the Heritage Front. It was perhaps the most covertly racist thing I had ever read. Disguised as a harmless group newsletter, it was full of anecdotes about immigrants taking jobs from Canadians. It also contained bits and pieces of info about the founder of Heritage Front and the history of the white pride movement. There were no overt racial slurs, there was, however, a small illustration of the ‘good ole days’. It depicted a lynching, complete with hooded clansmen. The illustration was located on the back of the newsletter and was small enough that it could have been overlooked with just a cursory glance. What I was holding in my hands was a piece of white supremacist propaganda, I just didn’t realize it at the time. I chose to ignore it, after all, they were just harmless words and illustrations. Everyone was allowed to have their viewpoint – free speech and all – so I chose to ignore that aspect of these people — until they refused to let me ignore it any longer.

Hanging out with Biff and Lucy became increasingly precarious. Biff had introduced Chuck to some other friends who were rapidly trying to recruit Chuck into their circle. On one occasion, when we were visiting their home, we met a group of older teens and young adults who were very loud and violently vocal with their thoughts. One of them told us about this old lady that lived next door to them who was a Wiccan. What’s that, another asked. A fucking witch, another proclaimed, We should go down there and burn her at the fucking stake. I’m not going to lie. My heart raced. You see, I was a practitioner of the craft, at that time. In fact, I was sitting, right there in front of them, with a shiny pentacle hanging around my neck. Biff and Lucy had visited my home and they had seen my altar. It only occurred to me later that were probably trying to intimidate me. Or they were incredibly stupid and didn’t realize that there was a Wiccan sitting in the room with them. Either way, it was a very frightening situation.

I sat in that room, with those people, listening to them become increasingly violent with their words. I witnessed, one young kid, maybe 17, rip off his shirt and proudly show off his new tattoo – a full back portrait of Hitler. Yes, that’s right, this kid, had a giant portrait of Hitler tattooed on his back – and he was proud of it. More tattoos started appearing, and before I knew it, there were shirtless skinheads thrashing about proudly displaying their swastikas and tattooed racial slurs while loudly saluting Hitler with the typical Nazi salute and shout of Heil! .

Of course, that didn’t stop us from still being friends with Lucy and Biff. You see, I believed, deep down, that my long-time friend didn’t actually hold these racist ideals. I thought, that perhaps, she had just gotten herself into a precarious situation with a man who was angry and confused (let me reiterate, he was a white supremacist with First Nations blood). She was about to have his baby. She was young and the world seemed like an incredibly scary place. I still want to believe this, but I don’t see Lucy these days. There is a chance she’ll read this, and if she does, please know that I always rooted for you and wanted the very best for you in what seemed a very dark time.

After that incident, I wasn’t comfortable visiting Lucy and Biff’s. Our next visit with them was at our apartment, and if I recall correctly, it was the last time we hung out with them as a couple. At that time, we had a roommate and two house guests living with us. They were all home. Before Biff had arrived, he had already indulged in some mind-altering substances. He was quietly agitated. As the rest of the house sat around listening to music and chatting, Biff sat away from the group, on a chair. He remained quiet and disengaged from the group. Then suddenly, he stood up, and started shouting Heil Hitler! while performing Nazi salutes… in MY home. Then he quietly sat down, turned toward my altar, my place of worship as a Wiccan, and began to grab various items and crush them. Chuck told him to stop, but he was in a trance and just sat crushing delicate pieces of my altar, including a sculpture made of bone. He just picked it up and crushed it with his bare hands. Here was this giant beast of a man, viciously destroying the sanctity of my home, while proclaiming his loyalty to one of the most evil creatures to ever live – Hitler.

Lucy tried to calm him and suggested they leave. He stayed solid in his chair, just crushing the sculpture to dust, ignoring our requests for him to leave our house. One of my house guests grabbed a knife and held it behind his back and then stood in front of the rest of us. He didn’t say a word. He just stood there, staring at Biff. Waiting to see what he would do. Eventually, Lucy convinced Biff it was time to leave.  I am not going to lie, in those moments and for many many months after, I was terrified. I also felt responsible for putting my house guests and roommate in danger by even allowing this man to enter my home. I thought I was being a good person by trying to engage with him. Turned out, I was just allowing him to feel more comfortable to be who he was – an angry racist. He had felt emboldened enough to incite fear inside my own home. And this, friends, is the problem with engaging with Nazis; it gives voice to their thoughts and empowers their ideas. I thought I was one of the good people, turns out I was just helping the bad guys to get bolder and scarier.

I think it’s time we do what we should have done… shame them for their inhumane thoughts and behaviours. Do we ignore them? No. But we need to stop giving them a platform to spread their hate. There is limit to freedom of speech, and when it is used to incite hate and violence, that limit is reached. As one of my friends put it so well, this isn’t an abstract concept. There is no such thing as a peaceful or reasonable Nazi. Nazis have deeply racist and dangerous worldviews. It’s time we shut that shit down for good. It’s also time we call them what they are: terrorists.

So, what happened to Biff and Lucy? Lucy gave birth and shortly after she left Biff. Biff moved into an apartment downtown, and then one evening, he violently beat to death a homeless man. Biff went to prison, and died while incarcerated. Lucy moved on, and raised an awesome kid. Lucy got out before it was too late. We need to do the same.

M. xo


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