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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Former Skinhead Looks Back On Life Of Hate

Frank Meeink gives talks about his past as a skinhead, and he partnered with the Philadelphia Flyers to launch an anti-hate group called “Harmony Through Hockey.” (Flickr/cityyear)

The civil rights organization the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported “a third straight year of extraordinary growth” in the ranks of extremist groups in the U.S. Hate groups burst back into the headlines after the deadly shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, where it’s thought the suspected shooter– a follower of so-called “hatecore” music– targeted Sikhs believing they were Muslims.

It’s a mindset Frank Meeink knew all too well. He once was a neo-nazi skinhead, who recruited fellow teenagers with what’s known as “hatecore” music. But he left the movement, with help from people like Keith Brookstein, a Jewish furniture dealer in Philadelphia, who hired Meeink when Meeink was a teenaged ex-convict with a swastika tattoo on his neck. An excerpt from Here & Now’s Robin Young’s conversation with Meeink follows. And a warning, there are some references to violence and racism.


What were your thoughts when the shooting happened at the Sikh temple?

When I first [heard about] the shooting it got right into the pit of my stomach that this might be the movement, same feeling I had with Oklahoma City bombing, I felt it right away. And then as the day started to play on I was [thinking] maybe it wasn’t the movement, but more and more it kept showing… and this time it was truly the movement that did it.

What were your thoughts then?

The people that got killed. I know a little about the Sikh temple and the community here in Iowa and in Philadelphia and I’ve always known them to be such peaceful and compassionate people, and so that was what was breaking my heart at first. I ran to the temple here in town and gave my condolences right away and I needed to relieve myself, I was shaken up a little bit.

Let’s go back to your life in South Philly and how you became a skinhead. You grew up in a tough neighborhood, you were kicked out of the house at 13 and you had a cousin who was a skinhead in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Were you just taken in?

Yes. It’s just like when you hear about kids that join a gang. I did not get accolades from my parents when I came home when I was a kid. I never got “Hey how was school today.” And when I started hanging out with the skinheads, especially in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area, I was the only Philly kid, they always wanted to talk to me about “What’s it like growing up in the city?” And to me it felt like they were asking me, “Hey how’s your life?” And they really weren’t saying that. They were just like, “Hey what’s it like growing up around black people,” that’s what they’re asking. But I’m saying, “My whole life sucks and I want to tell you about it.”

They asked you about race. What was the hatred, and of whom?

It started out with a hatred of black people. I had changed schools when I was 13, and I hated having to go in to school every day. It was an all black school, and they’re finally shutting that school down in Philadelphia because it was such a violent, horrible school. Pepper Middle School. I did have black friends, but I don’t remember them. I only remember what caused me pain at the time. And what caused me pain was sometimes if you got caught by yourself and you were a white kid, you got bullied and I fist fought a lot.

From there, it was a hatred of everybody who was different: Asians, Jews. You used to brag about how much you would terrorize them?

Absolutely, yes. After I joined the movement I was trained to hate Jews more than anyone else. I became a right wing Christian in the Neo Nazi movement, they’re called “Christian Identity” and it’s like the far right Christian extreme and they just basically preached to us that the Jews were the main problem.

Can you explain why that resonated with you, how did that infect you?

There’s another former [skinhead] up in Canada, I got to talk to him years later after we were both out of the movement and he made the best quote. People would say how did you have humanity now, but you didn’t have it then. And he said “I didn’t lose my humanity, I gave it away for acceptance.”

There were times when I was doing violent things to people where for a split second I’d say “this could be my uncle.” But I’d remember real quickly, “These are my boys though, these are my friends, and this is what we do.”

What would you be doing? Beating people?

Yeah, beating people. Our violence was our camaraderie. A Clockwork Orange.

Well and then you became a recruiter, you’d befriend the goth and punk kids in other schools. Was music a tool?

Music was our greatest tool and it still is the movement’s greatest tool. I’ll give you an example of how that would work. I would sit in the car with a skater kid and he would be listening to the Beastie Boys (I’m a little bit older so we still had tape decks in the car) so I’d pop his tape out and I’d say, “Man these guys are a bunch of Jews from New York.” And I’d throw his tape out the window, and he would kind of look at me like, “Hey that’s my tape.” And I’d pull out some skinhead music and say, “Here’s a tape. This is your tape, you can have this tape.” And he would play that continuously on a loop in his car, and it’s nothing but hate. That music keeps this movement young. It keeps the newer kids coming up more enthused. They can only go to so many Bible studies and meetings, but once they have the music it constantly backs up the feelings, those thoughts and the violence.

Fast forward to age 18, you were in prison and the Oklahoma City bombing happened. There was a wake up moment there?

My change had happened before Oklahoma. Oklahoma is what made me decide to help. When I was in prison I made friends with a lot of black kids and a couple Latino guys because we were all the youngest kids in the prison. We played cards sometimes together, we played some sports with each other. Even though we were all part of our own gangs — I was part of the Aryans, they were part of their black gangs that didn’t like white people — but it was prison and there was no gang wars going on at the time so there’s kind of like this peace. When I got out of prison I would think about a lot of those guys. Like there was this kid “G,” he was like a comedian. He just made me laugh, and when we were in prison, laughter was just something I wanted.

Was he black?

Yeah he was a black kid from Chicago. And I remember there was one time he was walking by and I was talking with my Aryan friends the white guys and I just was saying the N word, and I remember I looked over at him and he gave me this really weird look. And for a couple of days after that he treated me differently. So there was little things like that that kept popping into my head.

And so when I got released from prison those kinds of people stuck in my heart.

Guests:

  • Frank Meeink, author of “Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead,” he’s on the board of the group “Life After Hate”
  • Keith Brookstein, a furniture dealer in Philadelphia who hired Meeink

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://www.exposinghate.com/ ExposingHate.com

    Any kind of pointless violence is terrible, but I didn’t get why OKC was repeatedly brought up. McVeigh was anti-government, he didn’t come out of the white power scene. 

    • Spruce0230

      There is evidence that Tim McVeigh had some contact with Elohim City, a Christian nationalist compound in eastern Oklahoma.  Several individuals there, such as Dennis Mahon and Andreas Strassmeir, both with alleged ties to the white power scene, were apparently McVeigh’s contacts at Elohim City.

      • Flyersfan

        Thank you!

      • http://twitter.com/ExposingHateCom ★ ExposingHate.com ★

         Sorry, but McVeigh had nothing to do with the white power scene. He was a product of the U.S. Army, not Aryan Nations or any other Christian Identity group. He was captured and made a full confession, and said nothing about race that I can recall hearing about.

        • Josh Barnes

          Actually, he was linked up with Johnny Bangerter for that trip. Do a google search hoss. I don’t buy the story the government tried to float on that whole event but Tim was linked up with people that were of that ilk.

  • Abram Rosenthal

     Meeink – Thank you,  and to Here and Now and Keith Brookstein, and of course Robin Young. You stopped my morning in its tracks and in the last minute spelled it out with “We’re all just humans.”  Loving and respecting one another simply, simply, simply DOES just make your life better.  Would that we all could reach that essential knowledge.  Keep on  with your powerful work. I’m going to go dry my face now.

  • Ohkevman

    I heard this story before, it was called American History X.  Either this guy’s story inspired the film, or the film inspired this guy’s story.

    • http://twitter.com/SSASkittleBomer Danaya Chandler

      The movie was inspired by some of his story, he was interviewed for it :)

    • Wanickbill

      the film was about him…sort of.  

  • Tracy Moyle

    Frank Meenik’s story of transformation from an angry, violent and troubled youth to a caring and compassionate human being who understands the way to live is through loving thoughts and acts displays not only his intelligence but his success as an evolved human being.  If others, either as individuals or as members of a mass, who stubbornly cling to childish notions of individual supremacy or access to unique entitlements could let go of those immature beliefs, they too would stand a chance of truly succeeding in their life-time.  The notion of “if one of us are chained, then none of us are free”  isn’t as much about physical slavery or even racial prejudices, as it is about the collective ability to raise ourselves up as an entire world of humanity, regardless of race, religion, economic or geographical privilege. I am joyfully impressed with Mr Meenik’s courage to do exactly that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502793459 Kristian Day

    Hey folks, we are still fundraising to finish our documentary IS THIS HEAVEN? Please check out our Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kday/is-this-heaven-documentary

  • yiran756

    tinyurl.com/cyk9xz2

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aryangraphicsdesigns-Pro-White-Graphics/100003128264988 Aryangraphicsdesigns Pro White

    This diatribe of Frankie Meeink  leaves out one  important piece of  information.
    That is – Frankie  Meeink was a  one of  a  few  self hating  Jew’s who had such self
    hatred of their own religion and themselves that they joined the WP  movement.
    We have had Dan Burros back in the 1960,splattered his brain  on  the  ceiling of
    long time Klansman Roy Frankhauser  in 1965 after NY Times did  a  story on his
    Jewish  heritage.  Then  came   along  Frank  Collins  ( Real  name  Cohen )  whose
    demise was a arrest for child molestation and later claimed in court that his Jew
    father molested him,and that is why he molested young boys.
    Then  we  come  to  one Frank  Meeink,  his  mother  was   Jewish  and  father was
    Catholic.After this was  found  out  in  Pro White circles,Meeink had a revelation
    after his time in prison that he was no longer a adherent of White Pride!
    Convenient isn’t it.
    Meeink was  never  a  believer  in the faith of Christian Identity.He did not follow
    the Bibles  dietary laws or attend CI services on a regular basis.
    What Meeink was   – One  of  many  drunken skinheads,who were illiterate & only
    activity was being a drunkard &  violence. Meeink  is  the  same as Greg Withrow,
    TJ Leyden, Arno Michaels ,ect  who quit the WP struggle & become
    collaborators with Jewish & Anti White groups. Drunkenness,violent & illiteracy
    were the correlation that all these men share.
    Never  positive  activities, long time involved, education  &  ability to articulate
    the Pro White Ideology..
    Like the band,Aggravated Assault wrote in lyrics – WE DON”T WANT THEM !
    YOU CAN HAVE THEM!

    Brought to you by Aryan Graphics Designs
    Pro White Graphic Design Company

    • The Pope!

      HAHA not true, frank’s mom and whole mom’s side of the family are very, very Catholic. You are an idiot and believe everything you hear, that backs up your hatred of others.

    • http://twitter.com/ExposingHateCom ★ ExposingHate.com ★

      You should have mentioned Leo Felton in your list of characters. Now that was interesting.

      But I agree, self-hatred is a terrible thing.

  • Adrienne Brookstein

    Keith is my dad

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