Diversity Week: Empathy is the greatest tool to fight hate says former skinhead

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Former skinhead Frank Meeink, of Des Moines, speaks in Building 6 Auditorium Wednesday, Feb. 24.

A prominent speaker with a storied past and lifetime of experiences came to tell his tale to the students of DMACC campus Wednesday, Feb. 24 in the Building 6 auditorium.

Frank Meeink unraveled his life story of neglectful parents, finding comfort in the arms of a white supremacy group, befriending an African-American youth while in prison, and finally the epiphany that brought him to the answer of what is missing in the heart of those who hate.

Meeink spoke with great candor, admitting at the beginning of his speech that he does in fact curse quite a bit and will not sensor himself in order to appeal to the beliefs of his audience.

“I don’t really care what you think, I’m here to tell my story, and I don’t know you. So if I don’t know you, and I don’t care, I don’t have to fight with you about it.”

Meeink began his speech with the relationship between his Irish mother and Italian biological father.

His story continued to his first encounter with the skinhead gang he would soon join.  Introduced to them by his cousin, the gang would consistently ask him what it was like being around people of other races and seeing them every day.  This was the first time anyone had shown interest in his life.  Fourteen year old Meeink finally felt like he belonged and was loved.

“Not once would my mom or my dad say, ‘Hey Frank how’s your day?’  They never cared. When these guys would ask me questions, it was like someone asking how my day was.”

Meeink rose through the ranks and away from the original group to create one of his own.  It was not long before Meeink begun recruiting others to join his group and established himself as a full blown Neo-Nazi.

“I seen it and I loved it, the fear. I could see it in his face… I loved that.”

After the kidnapping and beating of one of Meeink’s rivals, he was convicted, placed in jail, and ended up befriending a young black teenager, the type of person he was taught to hate.

“I meet up with G, and me and him started playing spades together, just out of boredom. Then we started cheating, taking all these old guys’ money. No one thought we would be teamed up, he’s a gangster from Chicago and I’m a Neo-Nazi.  We were just taking everybody’s money.”

Eventually, after several years of positive encounters with people from other ethnic backgrounds, Meeink finally discovered how to combat the hatred in this world and how there can be peace between people from all walks of life.

“What changed me is the greatest tool that’s ever been given, and that’s empathy.  The thing that can fight hate on any level anywhere is empathy.  If I can relate to you on something and you can feel my pain, I cannot hate you anymore.”

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