More

A former white supremacist describes the time he changed his mind and 'life after hate.'

He helped build the modern white supremacist movement. Now he's trying to tear it down.

Peace activist and founder of Life After Hate Christian Picciolini has a surprising past: He used to be a neo-Nazi.

After getting kicked out of four high schools, Picciolini became involved with Chicago Area Skinheads, the first neo-Nazi skinhead organization in the U.S., during his teens.

By the time he turned 16, Picciolini had already taken on a leadership role within the organization, helping shape the modern white supremacist movement in the U.S.

"They promised me paradise," he says. "They promised me that the bullies would go away, that my life would get better, that I’d have a family that I was looking for, and that I would have a sense of purpose."


GIFs by Upworthy.

So what made Picciolini change his mind and turn his back on the neo-Nazi movement?

His journey from extremist to activist for peace began with conversation. In the mid-1990s, Picciolini ran Chaos Records, a Chicago record store known for its collection of white power music. It was there that he first began to have meaningful interactions with some of the same people he'd spent years of his life hating. The more he spoke with them, the harder it was to justify his hateful beliefs. Soon after, he abandoned the white supremacist movement and began making amends.

Now Picciolini spends his days trying to help others leave the movement he helped create.

Through his work with Life After Hate, a group he co-founded, Picciolini helps others leave extremist movements and leave behind lives of violence and hate. For him, it's all part of an effort to right the wrongs he's committed and to make up for the harmful ideology he helped craft.

But even decades removed from his contributions to the neo-Nazi movement, some of his influence can't be undone.

Despite his efforts, Picciolini's past beliefs live on in a number of forms, including the "alt-right" movement.

The name may change, but the ideology of white supremacy remains largely the same. Even worse, these ideas that were once seen only in fringe elements of society are creeping into the cultural mainstream. That's by design, and no one understands this better than Picciolini, who says that the "alt-right" movement has a plan to bring its ideology into the mainstream. And — horrifyingly — it's working.

"Don’t get tattooed, don’t shave your head, stop wearing a Klan hood, don’t wave a swastika flag," Picciolini says of the alt-right's strategy for creating a more palatable white supremacy movement. "Wear a suit and tie, go to college, blend in and mainstream the ideology. And in fact, that’s what we’re seeing now."

That's why it's important that we collectively continue to push back against hatred in all its forms.

It's important to remember that no one is truly beyond help. Picciolini's story of ongoing redemption can teach us all a lot about what it means to own up to the mistakes of your past and to help build a better world. Hatred might live on in America, but Picciolini's story should give us hope that it can be defeated.

To learn more about Picciolini's work, you can check out Life After Hate or read his 2015 book "Romantic Violence: Memoirs of an American Skinhead."

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

Keep Reading Show less

Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

Keep Reading Show less
Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

Keep Reading Show less