Klayton Bindon of New Zealand was in prison when he decided to get Aryan Nations tattooed across his face. He recalls, “I got tired of getting beaten up and having no food, and I ended up joining on with the gang to stop it. I was looking for a family. I sort of just went with this [tattoos] is going to be the ultimate statement. Being loud, I’m proud with my brothers.”
At the time hanging with the gang was for protection and Klayton recalls, “[We believed in] something called the 14 Codes of the Aryan Ethics.” Some of it was good, but a lot of it was about hating other races.
Klayton’s Aryan Nations buddies offered him belonging, purpose, dignity and safety and they promised him a future. “[They said,] ‘We’ll have you out of jail. We’ll get you a job. We’ll do everything. We’ll look after you. You’ll be set. You’ll be someone.’” None of it was true.
Klayton believed them and blindly marked the group’s name indelibly across his face. White supremacists often have each other’s backs in fights, on the school yard and in prison, but few of them are healthy enough to offer real loyalty, real belonging and friendship. Klayton recalls his horror when, “Within six months of getting my face tattooed, they jumped over with another crew and there was no such thing as the Aryan Nations Skins anymore. They disbanded and jumped on the Skinhead Soldiers. I’m the only member with this on my face. I sort of felt like, ‘Well, what was all that for?’ I put my whole life, as you can see, on the line for them, and they just left me, you know. At the end of the day, I still feel like I have nothing, and now I’ve changed my whole life for them and what do I have? I just have shit from everybody.”
Like many in hate groups Klayton went along with the hate in order to belong. He explains, “I never really was like a racist. Like, I used to hang around people of color all the time.” Sometimes people just want to belong, to be somebody, to have a purpose, to feel safe and they let the hate in because it bonds the group together, but usually haters aren’t very loyal themselves and hate turns sour in the end.
Klayton explains, “I regret [joining]. I feel like an idiot to be honest.” Now because of all his racist tattoos, “I can’t walk down the street. People, like, grab their kids and try to take them away from me. I just got about ran off the road two nights ago, just because of my facial tattoo.”
Having hate indelibly marked on your body is a way of really jumping in. But it also makes it harder to jump out. People fear you and they hate you back. “I’ve suffered so bad anxiety. Like, I find it hard to leave the house. Sometimes I feel like committing suicide just to end it all, you know – all because I tried to protect myself.”
There’s no need for suicide. There is help.
You can walk away from hate and find better people to belong to. There are people who will help you erase the hate, put you in touch with tattoo artists who are willing to cover up or erase your tattoos, help you walk away from hate. It isn’t an overnight or easy journey, but often one of the meaningful steps is to erase or cover up the markings of hate etched into your skin. No more feeling like you can’t take your shirt off at the pool, no need to keep long sleeves on hot days, no more explaining to people that you aren’t what the marks on your body are signaling. No more making others afraid or feeling fear yourself.
Klayton is still struggling with all of this. He states, “I’ve done three sittings of laser removal.” Klayton, like many who join white supremacist groups came from a troubled home and carries a lot of trauma inside and suffers from near constant anxiety. But he’s got good words for anyone trying to get on a better path. “Reach out to anyone, like maybe your family, your friends. Look online for a number that you can call, like, just that people that will listen to you.”
And for anyone thinking about joining and etching hate on their face or any part of their body he warns, “Don’t think that the promises that they’re going to give you is true, because it’s not. There’s always something, a motive behind it. They’re going to want something from you. They’re going to want something from your family. There’s no life in it. The only place a gang is going to lead you is jail and death.
You can watch Klayton telling part of his story here.
If you need help exiting hate you can contact people who care here.