Gazette-Times   2/21/03


Ex-skinhead: Fight hate with love

By JESSE SOWA
Gazette-Times reporter

Preventing the spread of hate begins with people willing to take the time and effort to effect a change.

That was the message, among others, from Steven Stroud, a former skinhead who now speaks to people about working together against what he used to support.

Stroud said it took loving foster parents for him to see how dangerous and destructive hate was.

 

"I had a lot of anger to act out, and it was condoned in those circles" of other white supremacists," he said. "I slowly learned to love myself, and I developed a self-esteem.

"I was so preoccupied with hate, I couldn't see straight. You dwell on it 24-7."

Love is the answer, he said.

"Kids really equate discipline with love," even though they may not show it, Stroud said.

Stroud is co-founder of Oregon Spotlight, a nonprofit organization with a mission to reduce the spread of hate throughout Oregon and the Northwest. He has appeared on several popular national talk shows to express his views.

Parents concerned their children may be influenced by hate groups should look for different clothing they're wearing, the music they're listening to and the Internet sites they're visiting. Internet filters don't keep all hate-related information from reaching the computer screen, he said.

"You may begin to see new signs. You may begin to see new clothing," he said. "It's scary."

It's not a problem for law enforcement to handle unless a crime has been committed. It's not law enforcement's fault that hate has spread, Stroud said.

Take the time to show your children you care, he said, so they don't have to look somewhere else for it. Youth are the target of the white supremacy movement. Racist skinheads seek out young people through music, publications and other venues.

"If we stay on top of our youth, and give them the right guidance … if you show them love, they don't have to act out their anger on others," he said. "If we do that, then law enforcement doesn't have to come down because a crime hasn't been committed."

A rally is an effective way to show support in numbers against hate, but that rally must be followed up with networking in the community that continues to show a strong front.

"You have to have the power inside yourself to come out and make a difference," he said. "Until you become proactive in your community, we're not going to be able to take step one toward unity, and white power groups know that."

Jesse Sowa covers public safety and general assignments for the Gazette-Times. He can be reached at jesse.sowa@lee.net or 758-9521