The Rise and Fall and Redemption of a White Supremacist
For most of us, it is hard to imagine the road that leads to active participation in white supremacist activities that include violence, and even after reading Christian Picciolini’s account of his entry into and rise to power within a skinhead organization, one is left with many questions. The book has gaps that are, perhaps, inevitable. Some things are almost inexplicable. What “Romantic Violence” does provide is a fascinating window into the world of skinheads and those who believe in the supremacy of one ethnic group over another.
Picciolini grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in an average middle class family that, according to the author, did not exhibit more racism than the average American family. And yet, as an early teen, he was drawn to the skinhead movement by a charismatic leader who offered him acceptance and a passionate cause to believe in. Clearly bright and a natural leader, Picciolini quickly rose to a leadership position in one of the most violent neo-Nazi groups in North America. His loneliness, sensitivity and the natural difficulties of being a teen made him ripe for targeting by the group, but it was those same traits that eventually led him to turn away from organized racism and to become a spokesperson for tolerance.
The book details his inner struggles and his process of coming to grips with the fallacy of his racist beliefs, while detailing the inner workings of the group and its members. The memoir often feels almost like a thriller and at other times like an anthropological study of a secretive and dangerous American subgroup. It is rare to find a memoir this honest and raw and Picciolini is clearly still struggling with his past decisions. That struggle, ultimately, is what makes this book so worthwhile.
About the Author
After leaving the violent hate movement he was part of during his youth, Christian Picciolini began the painstaking process of rebuilding his life. He earned a degree in International Business and International Relations from DePaul University, began his own global entertainment and media firm, and was appointed a member of the Chicago Grammy Rock Music Committee and the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival.
In 2010 he co-founded Life After Hate, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping communities and organizations gain the knowledge necessary to implement long-term solutions that counter all types of racism and violent extremism.