My heart breaks for the parents of the terrorist in the November 29 London Bridge attack. I refuse to include his name here.
His parents are not radicals. They do not condone violence. And yet their son perpetrated a terrible crime in a public place resulting in the death of two people and the trauma of hundreds.
What radicalizes people who grew up in moderate and “good” homes? A local mosque in Charlotte holds classes for parents to help them notice signs that their sons are becoming radicalized. They are trying to inoculate their children from those who would twist authentic Muslim principles.
White Parents: please pay attention. We also need to be trained in identifying signs that our children are being groomed by white supremacists/white nationalists. It’s increasingly common in the suburbs, in small towns, everywhere.
Joanna Schroeder is Twitter-famous for tweeting the message above about her white teenage sons. (You can read the whole stream here.) And since that tweet Ms. Schroeder has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and on NPR regarding the subtle radicalization of white boys and men.
“I’m not stupid enough to like a Hitler meme on purpose, Mom,” he said. “And anyway, I’m sure my friend shared it to be ironic.”
I know at least one young white men who dons a MAGA hat at his high school because “it makes people mad and that’s funny,” he told me last summer. But I suspect that he wears it for reasons other than self-entertainment.
From Ms. Schroeder’s opinion piece in The New York Times:
According to Jackson Katz, author of “The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help,” it’s not necessarily the ideology behind white nationalism, anti-feminism or the alt-right that initially appeals to young white men and boys as much as it is the sense of being part of a “heroic struggle.” Participating in the alt-right community online “offers the seductive feeling of being part of a brotherhood, which in turn validates their manhood,”
Parents of white children: it’s not enough to model kindness and respect. We need to talk in depth with our children about what happened in Charlottesville and El Paso and Pittsburgh and San Diego and New Zealand when angry white men lashed out at Jews and Muslims and any human beings who can be “otherized.” White nationalism can be subtle or it can be blatant. Some of the more blatant white nationalism comes out of the mouths of our elected officials.
I don’t intend for this to be a politically partisan post. I intend for it to be a spiritual post.
- We have got to teach our children that all human beings are created in the image of God.
- We have got to teach our children that every major religion teaches that we were created to love our neighbors as ourselves.
- We have got to talk to our kids and not allow social media to teach them how to think.
Short of inviting Joanna Schroeder to come to Charlotte, N.C. to teach parents here how to identify when our children are becoming radicalized, do you have ideas about others who could address this issue with parents?
Any former white nationalists out there who want to share past grooming secrets for the sake of squelching white supremacy? (This is a serious question.)
PS Here’s the link to a free PDF resource called Confronting White Nationalism in Schools: A Toolkit. It could be a valuable tool for churches.
Lower image from story about California high school party during which the teenagers made a swastika and saluted Hitler. (March 2019)