The Raven Foundation is pleased to announce that Christian Picciolini is the winner of the 2017 Raven Award for Excellence in Arts and Entertainment for his memoir White American Youth: My Descent into America’s Most Violent Hate Movement—And How I Got Out.
Christian’s raw and honest book chronicles how he became a major leader within America’s skinhead movement. We often hear questions like, “Why would anyone get involved with hate groups?” Christian answers that question with first hand experience in his captivating book.
In mimetic theory terms, Christian’s descent into the skinhead movement stemmed from a “lack of being.” He grew up isolated from anyone. He felt like an outsider who didn’t belong to any group. The first adult who gave him a sense of belonging was a skinhead.
Christian reveals how listening to and performing music became an essential aspect of recruiting. For good or for ill, music has a way of uniting people against a common enemy. In Christian’s case, he often united his followers against racial minorities and even against other skinheads. The group didn’t matter. All that mattered was that his gang had an enemy to fight against.
White American Youth is a story about conversion. Christian joined the skinheads because he wanted to be somebody. Christian has gone through a conversion in the Girardian sense. His conversion involved renouncing his friends, his life, his mentors, his hatred, and his pride. As René Girard writes in Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, “The hero triumphs in defeat; he triumphs because he is at the end of his resources; for the first time he has to look his despair and his nothingness in the face. But this look which he has dreaded, which is the death of pride, is his salvation.”
Christian now works tirelessly to help people disengage from white supremacy movements.
We are delighted that Christian has accepted the 2017 Raven Award. Stay tuned to the Raven Foundation Facebook page for your chance to participate in an upcoming live online interview with Christian!
Read my book review of White American Youth here.
Image: Peter Tsai, used by permission.