On Sunday evening (June 26) at 9PM on MSNBC, Lawrence O'Donnell hosts a new documentary titled Erasing Hate. It is about Bryon Widner (pictured right, with DLJ from April 2010, a day before one of his laser tattoo removal sessions), a former member of the Vinlander Social Club and his departure from a life in the neo-Nazi scene he led for sixteen years. In addition to several other organizations including the Southern Poverty Law Center, One People's Project was a part of his transistion into - let's face it - a more saner life. It had been a year since we actually met up, although we correspond regularly, and we thought it would be a good idea to reflect on the goings on of the past few years and see where he is at these days. It's a good primer on what you can expect when the documentary airs. Definitely a much better one than some of the folks from the old circles are trying to put out there, the poor saps!
One People's Project
OPP: So far, Stormfront is the only place where you have seen anyone in white power circles publicly talk about the documentary and more pointedly you (Editor's Note: two more had since chimed in--OPP). What has been your take on what has been said, and the fact they had to close the thread where you were being discussed?
Bryon Widner: I caught it after the thread was closed, which makes me think A:(Stormfront owner) Don Black didn’t want to have any kind promotion for my movie, or B: Someone said something threatening and Mr. Black bravely didn’t want to get caught up in any kind of legal ramifications. Regardless, the thread was just as childish as I figured it would be.
OPP: What about the Vinlanders? What would you say to your old crew about why you left and went this route?
BW: I have nothing to say to my old crew. Those bastards made mine and my families life an absolute living hell. They would probably try to say that I stole the idea about going Anti Racist from them since they are no longer a WP crew anymore lol.
OPP: In the documentary, we see you going through the painful process of removing your tattoos. This was done over a year ago. How has the healing been?
BW: The healing of the tattoo removal has turned out better than I thought. I lost some skin pigment, and have a few more scars now, but am ecstatic about how well it turned out! I can live a “normal” life again.... and that is something I never thought would happen.
OPP: One of the things that should be asked is how you feel about race and culture. While you have indeed renounced the hate and racism of your past, what has that meant for you in how you look at your heritage and culture?
BW: Since dropping my patch those years ago, I have learned how to love myself which in turn has taught me how to start loving humanity. I mean I still feel some idiots would benefit from a good smack to the mouth, but I don’t feel I need to express my self loathing in the guise of “racial pride”. I mean believe me, this was not an over night transition. It took a lot of soul searching and self help to get to the point where I can safely and honestly say I am not a racist. I’m just a guy who made some REALLY stupid decisions, and hurt a lot of innocent people along the way. Now I experience something that I never did in all my years in the WP movement, and that is Shame.
OPP: In recent years, a lot of the old crowd has fallen apart. Some groups have disbanded, some members are going to jail (Editor's Note: Hours after this interview, it was learned that a former Vinlander and associate of Widner's named Eric Fairburn pled guilty to a 7-year-old murder and was sentenced to life in prison--OPP). Do you see others looking to get out as you did?
BW: In all honesty, yes. I can see a lot of the “old schoolers” try to get out. After so many years in the movement people naturally get disgruntled with it. You see the hypocrisy, you see how that shit destroys lives. The main problem that people have is that most of them don’t know any other way to be. They don’t realize that there is positive help on the other side of the fence, it’s not something that is advertised, so they go on doing the same shit because they feel that there is no way out.
OPP: One of the other things that have happened in just the past few weeks alone are the more hardcore groups working with groups like Council of Conservative Citizens. In Tennessee on June 18, there was a BBQ organized by Volksfront/Blood and Honor and the C of CC, and in Indiana the local reps of American Third Position are reportedly with the Vinlanders. We have seen this in the past when the groups are more cohesive (National Alliance with the street crews for example) Do you think this is their way of trying to bring that back, and what would that mean? Have you worked with what would be called "mainstream" groups and individuals in your time in the scene?
BW: When I was still a Vinlander, we were trying to bring our message of hate to the mainstream. That’s where you are going to recruit the most. KSS (Keystone State "Skinheads" from Pennsylvania) came up with this plan of attack by changing their crew name and dressing down. The Vinlanders proclaimed to not be involved in the WP scene anymore. It’s a tactic that they feel would hopefully disarm the public about their ideals.
OPP: What do you hope comes out of the documentary?
BW: My hopes for this documentary is this.... I want to try to discourage any young man from traveling the same roads I did, and making the same mistakes. To prevent any family from going through the death threats and bullshit that my family had to endure. And to show some of these guys that yes, there is another way. You don’t have to live in a lifestyle that promotes hatred.
OPP: Anything else you would like to add?
BW: Daryle, I would just like to say Thank You for being apart of this with me. Hell, if it wasn’t for you taking a chance and talking to us, we wouldn’t be here today. I can honestly say from my heart, you are one of my Best Friends!