As part of his graduate research, UH-Victoria Criminal Justice Professor Keith Akins went undercover with a skinhead group in Florida. Then he went a step further, actually joining the Ku Klux Klan in the mid-90’s. Akins says he portrayed himself as someone who was angry at the system, and the Klan found that appealing
“I wrote a letter to the head of the Florida Klan, saying i was a white Disabled veteran, and I was trying to go to graduate school, and all of the scholarships were set aside for women and minorities and I was having to work three jobs to go to college”
Complete immersion, is the way Akins described his time with the Klan. He says he endured a lot of stress, and the violence and hatred was difficult to stomach. But he did find ways to endear himself to the group.
“What I did, I ordered a book online called 101 racist jokes and I just memorized them all, and, you know, so I could just throw out racist jokes about different groups and they all thought I was very funny from that.”
As for what makes people join hate groups, Akins says members may start out with the same concerns As other Americans, about issues such as abortion or the size of government. But they don’t accept complex answers, preferring to blame others.
“You get these very simple, very easy to understand conspiracy theories that pretty much explain every problem in American society, and people kind of get drawn into that.”
As the hate and anger grow, Akins says it comes to a point where people start associating only with people like themselves and that’s when things get dangerous.
“They get involved in these conspiracy theories, and the deeper they go, the less they’re exposed To alternate explanations and people who don’t feel that way until eventually they either wind up isolated in a compound somewhere or isolated in their room on the internet reading nothing but hate sites.”
Akins says along with the anger, he found a lot of fear, both fear of other people and fear of change. UH-Victoria says Akins has also done undercover work for the Anti-Defamation League.
Gail Delaughter, KUHF Houston public radio news.