The Recent Rise of Racism
Neo-Nazi sentiment, racism, and white supremacy have seen a recent resurgence globally, fueled by political polarization, economic disparities, and social grievances. The internet and social media have played a significant role in spreading extremist propaganda, while some politicians’ normalization of hate speech has emboldened these groups. Combating this rise requires a multifaceted approach, including education, countering online extremism, promoting social cohesion, and addressing underlying grievances.
My guest for this episode of The Influence Continuum was Kelvin Pierce, author of the memoir Sins of my Father: Growing up with America’s Most Dangerous White Supremacist. Kelvin was born into a highly racist and abusive household but was able to shed his indoctrination, create the charitable organization “Divine Child Foundation” to help orphans in Georgia, publish his memoir, and live a life of activism and inspiration fighting racism and extremism.
Indoctrination into White Supremacy
His father, Dr. William Pierce, was a notorious white supremacist and founded the National Alliance, a prominent hate group. Dr. Pierce also wrote the novel The Turner Diaries, which racists widely cite as inspiration for their racist beliefs and actions. Kelvin was subjected to physical and emotional abuse and was taught to believe that Jews and non-whites were responsible for society’s ills. Despite the personal abuse he suffered, Kelvin accepted his father’s teachings and held onto these racist beliefs as he transitioned into adulthood. It shaped his worldview and interactions with others, even though he didn’t openly broadcast these beliefs.
Leaving the Echo Chamber
Kelvin Pierce’s path to questioning his racist beliefs started when he left home for Virginia Tech, seeking an education in aerospace engineering. His first roommate was a man of color, intelligent, empathetic, and politically aware, characteristics that defied Kelvin’s preconceived racist notions. Despite being initially stunned, Kelvin found his roommate to be a “cool” person, and this experience was the first spark challenging his father’s teachings. Yet, Kelvin still clung to his racist beliefs and isolated himself from social interactions, which prolonged his healing process. Indoctrination into extreme beliefs requires constant reinforcement and an echo chamber of controlled information, and Kelvin was now free of these two conditions.
The Turning Point
A turning point arrived later in his life when a business peer, noticing Kelvin’s depression, urged him to seek help. After rejecting traditional psychiatry and medication, Kelvin turned to a spiritually-based counselor who guided him toward self-love and positivity. This counselor introduced the concept of personal choice in thoughts, teaching him to replace harmful thought patterns with healthier ones. This counseling was pivotal in his journey to shed his racist beliefs and reclaim his self-worth. I highly recommend that anyone feeling cognitive dissonance between their beliefs and what they see around them seek professional help, especially when their beliefs are based on fear, anger, and hate. Good therapists can help people recover from their childhood wounds, teach skills, and offer exercises and other types of skill-building.
Advice for Others
I asked Kelvin what he would like to share with others with a similar background, and his advice aligns with my belief that asking respectful questions can have great results. He said he would ask them how the constant hate and the feeling of superiority really feels? Does that really feel good? Those feelings are a temporary fix, a kind of addiction. It could feel good at first, but ultimately, it’s chronically damaging to your health. He recommends that people look inside themselves and ask, “Why do I hate these people? Why do I feel this way?”
More Common Than You Think
The story of Kelvin Pierce is more common than you think. One way Kelvin’s father was instrumental in spreading the message of white supremacy was through music by forming the music empire Resistance Records. Another man with a similar story is Arno Michaelis, who started his journey to white supremacy through music. Kelvin and Arno both cite their children as significant influences that led to their replacing hateful beliefs with those based on love. I encourage you to read my blog article about Arno and note the similarities between his and Kelvin’s journeys.
When Love Replaces Hate
Kelvin had a lot of work to do overcoming the low self-esteem and racist views instilled in him by his father. Once he was able to get away from that environment and work through these issues, he realized that he had a lot to offer the world. He and his wife adopted two daughters from Georgia. During the adoption process, they saw the conditions of life in the orphanage and created The Divine Child Foundation. There’s a lot more to this story, so I encourage you to listen to the entire episode of The Influence Continuum to experience how devotion to helping others entirely overcame the hate from Kelvin’s childhood. If you are interested in adoption, please listen to another podcast episode with guest Dr. Joyce Maguire Pavao, an expert on the adoption process.
If Kelvin Can Do It, You Can Do It
I loved talking to Kelvin and learning about his journey from victim to survivor to becoming a thriver. His father influenced (and continues to influence) many people to believe and do harmful acts. Promoting Kelvin as a role model can not only inoculate others but, I imagine, help people out of a life of hate by understanding what a terrible man William Pierce was in his life. I want anyone reading this or listening to the podcast to know that if you were born or raised in an authoritarian family or group, I say if Kelvin can do it, you can do it. Listen to this man, read his memoir, and understand you can do good and rewrite the programming of your self-image. Love yourself because love is stronger than mind control.