Hi, this is Emily. I'm the host of California City, and now that our limited run series is over, I wanted to recommend a show that I think you'll enjoy our friends at WBCSD. We have a new season of their podcast. Motive this season tells the intimate story of youth in the American white supremacy movement from the neo-Nazi skinheads of the 80s to today. Stay tuned for the first episode. Listen and subscribe to motive wherever you get your podcasts.
I was at home watching the news when breaking news came out about a rally happening in Charlottesville.
It was what I can only explain is like a post-traumatic stress moment. And, you know, torture is being carried. Chants of the Jews will not replace us and ultimately a young woman being run over and killed.
I just ran down all of these people, parents saw their children on television at the Charlottesville rally and suddenly were horrified. My email, my phone, text messages, social media messages blew up, people looking for help with people that they loved who suddenly they realized may be part of this white supremacist movement.
Why were they calling you?
You know, I think that they were calling me because they thought that 30 years ago I would have been at that rally. White supremacy, it's a sinister and sometimes invisible system all around us, the institutions and the laws that have kept white people on top in America since before the country's founding. You don't need a white hood in your closet to be part of it. But extremists and costumes like that have defined the outer limits of our reckoning with race.
Members of the organized white supremacy movement shift the goalposts of what society finds acceptable. But there was a time when it seemed the movement was starting to fade.
Back in the 1920s, as many as four million Americans were card carrying members of the Ku Klux Klan. The numbers have been nowhere near that since then. But with the civil rights movement in the 1960s, KKK membership started rising again. Then by the 1980s, it was clear that efforts to legalize segregation were going nowhere and some thought the movement was finally dying.
Anyone who might have predicted the demise of the KKK wouldn't have predicted what came next. This time, the message of hate took root among young people in American cities through a new generation of angry kids with shaved heads, steel toed boots and swastika tattoos.
neo-Nazi skinheads styled themselves as the front line soldiers in a coming race war.
This podcast will tell the story of how a generation of racist teenagers in the 80s and 90s breathed new life into the American white supremacy movement and how that planted the seeds for hate among youth today. From WPEC Chicago, I'm Odette Yousef. And this is motive. The hate great. That's the last time you looked at this stuff. I don't know that I've ever, like, fully gone through it in the last 20 years old, braces, old suspenders that I used to wear, but I never wore them to hold my pants up and warm down, because if you wore them down hanging low, then it signaled that you wanted to fight, that you were ready to fight somebody.
I mean, Christian Cellini's living room, he's rooting through a big box on the floor. It's like a time capsule from his years as a racist skinhead.
Yeah, this is the hate crate.
It is a lot of garbage stacks of music magazines featuring interviews with white power bands, concert flyers with some of the most disturbing drawings I've ever seen, things that celebrate genocide. And then Christian pulls out a red cloth about six feet tall.
This is actually a World War two relic. This is a German Nazi flag that appears to have bloodstains on it. Where did you get that from? I don't know. I was a resourceful teenager.
In the middle. There's a white circle with a black swastika. Christian says it's authentic. It's the kind of thing that hung off buildings and lined the streets in Nazi Germany. It takes my breath away.
There was a kind of an antique store. And I think I traded my baseball cards that I'd been collecting as a kid for that flag.
And that's that was my transition from like this 13 year old, you know, normal shy kid.
And to somebody who was willing to trade everything that I'd been collecting since I was a baby, basically, probably a couple hundred a couple of thousand baseball cards for, you know, the swastika flag. As a reporter at WBC, I cover stories about race and class. A few years ago, I met Christian. He told me that Chicago was one of the first places where racist skinheads organized in the U.S.. I've been wondering why ever since. The journey to answer that question has taken me to some dark and fascinating places, nobody's really told the story of what happened more than 30 years ago when punks and Skins in Chicago battled in the streets.
And what I've discovered is that that story has a lot to do with how the white supremacist movement draws in young people today. I don't know what you're really trying to do. You know, the world's in turmoil and you want to do this skinhead podcast.
This season on motive, I just remember hearing them kick at the door. I remember a boot coming through the door and that's all I remember. We look at the rise and fall of neo-Nazi skinheads. Finally, it led to me telling them, look, forget the skinhead thing here. I'll go to college, join the police department, get into the government. My whole idea was infiltration there. Right now, how that story connects to today. This is supposed to be something new that we weren't going to have those types of people be involved in this.
All right. Charlottesville thing. But yet I got there and there's David Duke, like right in front of me.
We're still having the debate. Is white nationalism a threat? I can tell you it is. This is not something that we can ignore anymore. They've got a 30 year head start. And we try to find the man who started it all. Where did this ghost go and why isn't he out right now when it's his moment? I guess I'm just wondering if he's a day late, but there are no death records.
Where is he?
What I understand from a former associate of mine, he was killed down in Texas. Thanks for listening to this preview of Motive, a new podcast from ABC Chicago, I'm Odette Yousef.
Coming September 4th, this season of Motive tells the story of how skinheads were enlisted as the front line soldiers of the American white supremacist movement and how that helps us understand America's racial reckoning today. Subscribe to motive from WBCSD Chicago wherever you get your podcasts.
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