Skinheads: young, violent and learning how to hate

November 16, 1990|By M. K. Guzda

The youngest boy, short and slight with close-cropped hair, cursed the sub shop owner the loudest.

"You tough little Jew, you're nothing but a nigger turned inside JTC out," said the 12-year-old, flashing open his jacket to reveal an anti-Semitic slogan on his T-shirt. "You oven stuffer."

The five boys, age 12 to 17 and all with short haircuts, left the East Baltimore sub shop laughing.

WHEN WHITE supremacist Tom Metzger was found liable last month of inciting the bat-beating death of an Ethiopian man in Portland, Ore., he seemed unfazed.

"We're embedded now. Don't you understand?" asked Mr. Metzger, who will have assets and property seized to satisfy some of the $12.5 million civil judgment. "We're in your colleges. We're in your armies. We're in your police forces."

The "we" to whom Metzger referred are white supremacists who insist the face of the future be Caucasian. More specifically and frightening, he alluded to skinheads, young people who often are not wise enough to know better.

Listen to their anger and you hear them speak as foot soldiers who carry the crosses before igniting them, an infantry protecting the white race by literally booting "undesirables" out. They are recruited and organized as "front-line warriors" and are replenishing the nation's army of bigotry as adult ranks wane.

Since publicity about them swelled last year, they have become more sophisticated than the black leather, metal spikes and raw, shaven heads they touted. Having laid down their razors, the youths are being groomed by the older racist and anti-Semitic movements to work within the system.

Metzger, a 52-year-old television repairman from Fallbrook, Calif. and head of the White Aryan Resistance described his mission a few months before the trial: "My philosophy is to take these kids and turn them into briefcase-carrying technocrats. More and more they are listening to me and growing their hair out and not be so identifiable.

"We're very pragmatic about it. Raw material can come from the skinheads, from heavy metal, we don't care as long as we can get it."

Some of "it" comes from the Baltimore area, where illogical racial violence has been witnessed in fire bombings, assaults and vandalism. Area skinheads number about 40, according to Mira Boland, an Anti-Defamation League fact-finder. But local skinheads boast that they are 100 strong.

An ADL study released this spring attributed a 200 percent nationwide increase in anti-Semitic incidents -- arson, bombings, cemetery desecrations and swastika graffiti -- to neo-Nazi skinheads. Racial and ethnic incidents have been recorded in Baltimore, Montgomery, Howard, Anne Arundel and Howard counties.

In 1988, a young man of Asian descent was beaten and stomped in Sligo Creek Park in Montgomery County by four area youths who claimed to be skinheads.

His friend, a 19-year-old Kensington man, suffered a broken cheek from a steel-toed boot kick to the face.

White, blue-collar poor are feeling a blow from affirmative action, experts say. Local skinheads hiss their opinions about affirmative action and spit out their anger over discrimination.

"[Minorities] want to be equal, and then they go and and get all these privileges and everything," said Bob, a 17-year-old whose short cropped hair was dyed shoe-polish black. "And [Aryan people] are just letting the black race walk all over them, and we're just trying to open their eyes so they won't do that."

Bob's friend Karen, who graduated in the top 5 percent of her Baltimore County high school class, said blacks receive opportunities she thinks are denied to whites.

"Every black person in our age group has been free since their birth, the same as us, and they have had as good a chance in

this world or better than us," she said, "because they are getting all the help."

Capitalizing on that frustration, the KKK offers unity, a sense of belonging and an outlet to adolescent outcasts. This spring, a dozen juveniles were organized by Klansman Leo Joseph Rossiter, who pleaded guilty in August 1989 to conspiracy to possess two live hand grenades.

The boys and girls, whose rumpled military fatigues contrasted with smooth, downy faces, stood at a busy Glen Burnie intersection one cold Sunday and hoisted signs debasing blacks. Their stares looked devoid of thought, their faces were ashen and contorted by hatred.

Another favorite among local discontented youths is the Church of the Creator, an Otto, N.C.-based group. Skinheads proudly distribute its literature and espouse the philosophies from "The White Man's Bible," by Ben Klassen, organization founder and a former Florida state legislator.

Here's a sample of Klassen's message: "United and organized, the white race is 10 times more powerful and a thousand times more worthwhile than all the parasitic Jews, niggers and mud races in the world combined. We of the Church of the Creator mean to unite, coalesce and organize that awesome power toward a constructive and meaningful purpose."

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