Former Neo-Nazi TJ Leyden spoke on the topic of hate in Upper Strong Nov. 20.

Leyden, who now works to discourage hate and prejudice, used his own experiences as evidence of the effect hate can have on a society.

Leyden opened his talk with a timeline of how he became involved in the white separatist movement.

Leyden, who became violent at a young age, joined the white supremacist movement at 15.

He went on to join the US Marines, where his superiors ignored his racist stance. As long as he was a “passive” participant, the Marines overlooked Leyden’s many racist tattoos and the fact that he distributed “The Turner Diaries,” a key piece of white supremacist literature, to other Marines.

Leyden soon began working with leaders of other separatist groups. They had the same common goal – separation of all races.

In addition, Leyden was a recruiter for new members to the movement – he estimates that his recruiting efforts attracted 80 new members.

Leyden realized he needed to reform while watching TV with his 3-year-old son several years ago. When a program with an African American actor came on, Leden’s son quickly turned off the TV, saying, “Daddy, we don’t watch niggers in the house.”

It took Leyden 18 months to abandon the group completely. After leaving the movement, he turned all his racist materials over to the Propaganda and Research Department of the Museum of Tolerance.

Based upon his experiences, Leyden now believes that white supremacist groups are using the U.S. Military as a training ground for its members.

He also believes that these groups targeting children as young as 9-years-old via video games, comic books and music. According to Leyden, Resistance Records, a company that produces “white power” music, had sales of $4 million last year.

“White hate and black hate [are] all set to music,” Leyden said. “[It is] genocide through music.”

Looking back on how difficult his involvement in and removal from the white power movement was, Leyden advised the audience not to stand for hate, even among their family members.

“If you can’t say something to your family when they’re saying something racist, then you’re not part of the solution,” Leyden said. “You are part of the problem.”

Leyden spoke specifically of a rift that now exists between him and his sons, in the custody of a mother who refused to leave the Neo-Nazi movement.

Leyden admits that, despite the progress he’s made, his rehabilitation may take a great deal of time.

“I still have racist thoughts from time to time,” Leyden said. “It’s a process of relearning.”

In the past several years, Leyden has created StrHate Talk, which speaks to groups about the culture and nature of hate.

Student reactions were mixed.

“I had no idea skinhead and Neo-Nazi groups such as the ones Leyden was a part of were so prevalent in the US today, sophomore Sarah Rastagar said. “I wish Leyden had kept the speech more personal than he did – by the end, he had taken it more in a political direction.”

“He was definitely passionate about what he had to say,” sophomore Jennifer Spross said. “I felt like it meant a lot to him and that made it more influential.

“I was totally transfixed and horrified, and I realized some of the tiny things that I do that convey racist feelings without even realizing it,” she said.

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