Anti-Racist Storytelling: White Nationalism and that Time I Called my Asian-American Classmate a Racist
Trigger Warning: Neo-Nazis and White Nationalism
I’ve been thinking about anti-racist storytelling lately, and also about how the dominant culture doesn’t talk about racism enough. So I’ve decided to write a series of posts about my personal history as I’ve interacted with white nationalism. I figure it’s a way of approaching the issue at the blunt and extremist interpersonal racism that is so easily accessible to beginning and non-identified anti-racists, but it also hints at some of its more nuanced dynamics. I also think of it as a kind of healing process for myself. So here it goes:
I grew up just outside of Little Five Points in Atlanta. That was before it became basically a strip mall – back when people still talked about finding used syringes in the gutter (I never saw one, but I wasn’t the most observant child). Now, our oral histories didn’t go that far back – say for example, to the white gentrification and take-over of the surrounding neighborhoods – but we knew that the Little Five Points generation just before me was marked by conflict between the punks and the neo-Nazis. There were fights, lots of fights, and eventually the punks forced the Neo-Nazi’s out. That’s what I’m told anyway, and that’s why there were relatively few white nationalists in my neighborhood growing up.
The first time I met a white nationalist in person, I was flying through the air into his face. My friend (also Jewish) and I were at the Masquerade, a dilapidated venue that the management was always talking about closing down, but never actually did. We were going to 80’s night, but the problem was that 80’s night was 18+ and we were only 17. The strategy we developed was simple. The Masquerade was divided into three levels, “Heaven” upstairs, and “Purgatory” and “Hell” downstairs. My friend and I bought tickets for whatever was going on in Heaven, and then we’d sneak down the back stairs into 80’s night in Hell. That night Heaven happened to be a metal show. The band was really into Norse mythology, and the singer drank beer out of a horn.
While we were hanging out at the metal show, my friend pointed out a big guy in the middle of the crowd hailing Hitler. I missed the first time he did it but I kept my eye on him. When I saw him hailing Hitler again, I ran towards him (the crowd wasn’t very thick), jumped in the air, and slammed into him with my shoulder. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have jumped (I would have hit him with more force if I hadn’t). But despite years of being forced to take karate by my father, my fighting style was still mostly inspired by the Power Rangers. But that’s OK because my goal was symbolic, anyway. Fuck if some Nazi thinks he can go around hailing Hitler without anyone doing anything. Motherfucker.
After I hit this guy, he punched me in the face. It didn’t really hurt, which put me a little more at ease. He might have been way bigger than me, but if he didn’t know how to throw a punch I’d be alright.
“NAZI SCUM!” I yelled. I think his response was something like, ‘YES, I AM A NAZI, FAGGOT,’ which was kind of an, “oh, right,” moment for me.
“FUCKING BIGGOT!” My vocabulary simply wasn’t equipped for this.
At that point, two of his friends came and stood behind him. I was tall for my age, but each of them were about a head taller. Here I was, some skinny punk kid wearing purple zebra-print leg-tight pants faced with three big, fat, probably-would-have-liked-to-stick-me-in-an-oven Nazi’s. One of the them yelled something about how I shouldn’t have been at a show like this anyway, or what did I expect, or something like this. My friend was nowhere to be seen, not that I blamed him for even a second. Fuck.
One of this them starts hailing Hitler, saying, “What you gonna do now? Look, I’m hailing Hitler! You gonna hit me too?” I thought about it for a second. I didn’t really want to throw the first punch and get the shit kicked out of me. Fucking Nazis. So I spat right in his face. It was glorious, spit my spraying everywhere like a fountain. Easily the best spit of my life. He punched me and the entire right side of my face went numb.
Luckily for me, someone jumped in the middle and spread his arms out. A few other people started gathering around, too, breaking up the fight.
So I found my friend and we stuck around for a minute, then headed downstairs to 80’s night. We passed near the neo-Nazis again on our way out.
Since the Neo-Nazi’s had implied that the show was their space, I looked up the band when I got home. They took an explicit anti-white nationalism stance on their website, basically saying that the bigots were taking over the scene.
When I woke up the next day, I had to explain to my mother that I had this enormous black eye because I had gotten into a fight with a Nazi.
“Were you drunk?”
“I guess that’s what happens when the Irish marry Jews. “I’m glad you’re OK. Nazi’s are dangerous. They’ll kill you in the street.”
Needless to say, I felt like a total BAMF that day at school. Until a girl I knew asked me why I thought violence was the answer. I was pretty enraged. Should I be expected to sit idly by and watch as people glorify the fascist regime that murdered millions of my people and could have wiped us all off the planet completely? Why is it not ethically acceptable to challenge Nazi ideologies by any means necessary? I had recently finished the Autobiography of Malcolm X.
But I wasn’t really able to express myself that clearly at the time. “YOU RACIST!” I yelled at her.
This girl was Asian-American. I’m white. She walked away.
The next time I saw a Neo-Nazi, it was at a Dragonforce show. This guy in the mash pit had a swastika tattoo. I thought about fighting him, but I didn’t and he disappeared into the crowd.
More to come soon.
re: asians and racism: gandhi said jews going into the ovens should remain pactifistic. so. yeah. i don’t understand asian or any other traditions of non-violence. the vietnamese beat the fuck out of japanese (and many other) invaders (like us) for a long, long time.