Life After Hate: A Former White Power Leader Redeems Himself

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A man stands in front of the Djingareyber mosque on February 4, 2016 in Timbuktu, central Mali. 
Mali's fabled city of Timbuktu on February 4 celebrated the recovery of its historic mausoleums, destroyed during an Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and rebuilt thanks to UN cultural agency UNESCO.
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A "Picture-Perfect" Childhood, Until...

Scholar-Griot: Dr. Fran Kaplan

Arno Michaelis grew up in Mequon, Wisconsin, a small, virtually all-white, upper-middle class town just north of Milwaukee. A gifted child, he was raised in a loving, intact family. Like a lot of kids, he went off to summer camp with some friends. The camp was a white-power training school. There he participated in drinking to excess, wild macho behaviors, and paramilitary training. Arno adopted the Church of the Creator's racist beliefs.

Music, Power, and Violence

At seventeen he sang in a white power punk rock band, Centurion. His songs were a call to violence: “The blood is gonna flow” ... “This planet is ours/We’ll ever fight/Until the world’s white!”  For years, Arno practiced what he preached, severely beating and otherwise hurting many people.

What Turned Arno Around

Later, he became attracted to the rave scene. At raves, Arno found himself dancing with people of different races. They were all accepted there, and so was he. Then Arno became a father, raising his daughter by himself. In the daycare center at the Milwaukee Area Technical College, he saw his little girl happily playing with a diverse group of children. His thinking began to change. He began to read materials that challenged his racist ideas.

Talking and Walking Peace

Today Arno Michaelis is an activist for peace and justice. He has written a memoir of his skinhead years and transformation, My Life After Hate.

Michaelis also joined with another former racist skinhead, Christian Piccolini, to form the organization and website, Life After Hate, "a venue where anyone concerned with racial and human rights issues can speak their mind and contribute to the overall theme of peace, equality, and inclusion."

UPDATE: MAY 2018

In 2012 a white supremacist massacred 6 people at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. One of the victims, a Temple leader, was the father of Pardeep Singh Kaleka, a former Milwaukee cop, now a psychotherapist working with trauma survivors. In struggling to understand what motivated this terrible killing, Pardeep reached out to Arno as a former skinhead. The two became friends and formed Serve2Unite. Together they teach basic human kindness to children and adults. They also lecture locally, nationally, and internationally as part of a movement opposing violent extremism.

Their jointly written, inspiring new book, The Gift of Our Wounds, tells the remarkable story of how their friendship grew out of a horrific hate crime. The book provides a vital understanding of how to combat racism and white supremacists in order to build an inclusive society based on unity and respect.

Hear Arno speak about how he became a violent racist – and how he transformed himself – in this podcast.

Fox 6: Arno Michaels & Life After Hate

6 Comments

  1. arno michaels on April 22, 2012 at 11:17 PM

    It’s such an honor to be mentioned here, and I truly appreciate the time and space you have given me and Life After Hate. I am grateful for the work that you do as well.

    I must add that while I did attend a racist training camp, I didn’t go there unsuspecting. By that time I had already spent a few years in hate groups.

    I take full responsibility for the poor decisions I made. Thank you so much for helping others to learn from my mistakes. It is a gift to me that I will treasure.

    Anyone interested in learning more about Life After Hate and basic human goodness can do so by visiting https://lifeafterhate.org

    Please don’t hesitate to contact me if there’s anything I can do to be of service to America’s Black Holocaust Museum. Together we can celebrate our great human family.

    peace,
    -arno

  2. Tanya Byrd on April 23, 2012 at 1:24 AM

    I can truly say as a Black woman, Arno has touched my life and has given me motivation to continue my work against violence and hate. He is my brother and I love his soul and spirit.

  3. M. Manwar Ali on April 23, 2012 at 3:07 PM

    I love you for the sake of Allah! God bless you.

  4. robert on July 12, 2012 at 10:29 PM

    Just writing to say I listened to your story on CBC radio today. Very impressive…to overcome hate. We can’t change our past…but we can change our present…and alter our future. There comes a time when we have to forgive ourself….and clean the slate. My man you are an inspiration….be aware of your past and embrace it….its why you are who you are today. God bless….have a great day….Robert.

  5. America's Black Holocaust Museum | The Sound of Hate on August 9, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    […] about a white power extremist and band leader who became a teacher of peace and tolerance, here.     Leave a […]

  6. Soraya on September 14, 2013 at 4:45 AM

    May God bless you, you are a wonderful person.

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