Brad Galloway recalls being a kid meeting up in a bar with someone whom he trusted, someone who seemed to know the “truth,” someone who belonged to a group. The friend told him that Jews, Filipinos, and Blacks were running the neighborhood. Meanwhile, Brad had his eyes on his friend’s cool jacket and boots—signs of belonging to the tough guys. Brad wanted that. His friend also had a sense of certainty and Brad, coming from a family that didn’t seem to want him, suffered emotionally from not fitting in. He could feel his friend’s confidence and certainty beckoning to him like a drug, offering answers to the problems surrounding him—this certainty offered to calm his nerves and the possibility of belonging to what his friend had also promised to make him feel like a man. The skinheads walked around looking tough. They didn’t appear to have any doubts or anxieties constantly plaguing them. They were men who belonged and dominated. Brad wanted that.
Achieving manhood is a big job, actually. Everyone in that stage of youth, moving away from their families and out into the world, is working hard on building their identity, testing their skills, and suffering anxieties over how to chose, what’s best for me? Brad was no different. He recalls, “I was struggling for, looking for an identity. I didn’t know where I was going with my job. I didn’t have a girlfriend…” And here his new friends offered the answer.
Brad’s weekends were filled with street fighting, attacking different ethnic groups, and “shedding blood” to prove his manhood. Brad went all in accepting the white supremacist ideology, believing Jews were his ultimate enemies, and becoming a scrappy fighter and hater of all minorities. One night he ended bloodied in the emergency room and came face-to-face with the doctor sent to treat his wounds—an orthodox Jew. His enemy. Despite Brad wearing a bomber jacket with white supremacist markings, the doctor treated him compassionately, stitching up his wounds, just like any other human who arrived in his hospital that night. Brad went home shaken, but still devoted to his group, his path to manhood.
In many ways, girls have it a lot easier to confirm their womanhood. Their bodies change, most mature into curves earlier than their male counterparts and they menstruate. They have clear proof that they are now able to become mothers. Boys can still look skinny and boyish when they feel ready and want to be men. There are few clear answers on how to become a man. Get a job? Have some money? Buy a car? Move away from home? Hit the gym and build some muscle? Get a girl? Some of these markers are out of reach. And it’s hard to figure out, what makes a boy into a man?
Turning to violence, trying to dominate or control or intimidate others can be a way of proving “I’ve come into my manhood” and exerting power can be one way of trying to convince oneself and others that “I’m a man!” But this path is littered with “men” who don’t really have it together. They might stand with you in a drunken fight or answer your call if you are being jumped, but they haven’t grown up into real men who will be true friends in time of need. There’s no depth to the friendships, just brokenness and clinging together in drinking, hating, and beating up others.
Shane Johnson has something to say on that
Brad and many others in the skinhead and white power scene learned this the hard way. It took his wife to pull him out. She told him that it was either her or the hate group. Brad was man enough to realize his wife was the person who actually loved him and would be beside him through thick and thin. He now works toward pulling others out of hate groups.
And he remembers, now with a sense of shame mixed with deep admiration, that even though he was taught that Jews were his enemies, when he was bloodied and down, it was an orthodox Jew who came to his rescue.
You can listen to Brad tell his story here.
If you need help exiting hate you can contact people who care here.