“There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”
A thank you to the Buffalo Springfield for those ‘60’s words from “For What It’s Worth.”
I’ve never done a book review before. But then again, I’ve seldom gotten multiple mentions in someone else’s biography.
One quiet day in 2008 a reporter called to read me the headline from his next day’s article: “Nazi to join Palm Beach County Republican Party.” I was the Chairman. The headline never ran. Within two hours we issued a press release making it clear that the applicant, Derek Black, had not filed all the required forms and that he wouldn’t be seated. Derek Black, son of Stormfront founder Don Black, lived in West Palm Beach and had applied to run for one of our Committee seats. He “won” the seat but failed to file the required Loyalty Oath. I rejected his application. Stormfront, the largest White Supremacist website in the country, is housed in Don Black’s house in West Palm Beach. Who knew? Not me. Two years later Derek applied to fill a Committee vacancy. In my ten years as Chairman I never asked the Republican executive Committee to reject an applicant — except for this one time. The vote was 87-19 against the application. No, we didn’t have 19 White Supremacists. We had, and have, zero. But nineteen members agreed with Committeeman D.J. De Renzo’s feeling that: “Love conquers all.” (Palm Beach Post, March 31, 2010, Joel Engelhardt). As the vote concluded I looked at Derek and said: “We as Republicans pride ourselves as judging people on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Sadly, Derek doesn’t.” (Ibid). That was the last time I saw or heard of Derek Black.
Enter Eli Saslow, author of “Rising Out of Hatred,” the biography of Derek Black, from his Committee seat “election” to the near present.
I just read it. It’s mostly a good, inspirational read. But unbeknownst to Mr. Saslow and Mister Black, it’s still an unfinished journey.
Derek moved on from West Palm beach and the Republican Executive Committee. He landed in the New School of Florida, a Sarasota-based small Liberal Arts college that tilted Far Left. It was a really good move. It brought out Derek’s assets: He was curious and he was intellectual. Most people don’t realize how rare these gifts are. Derek met and befriended all the people his family denigrated and encouraged him to avoid; Jews, Blacks, Hispanics. He flew under the radar as his internal conflicts grew. He was one persona as the heir apparent to Stormfront and another as the guitar playing, mostly quiet, well read, history major in the New School.
The heroine of the journey is his girlfriend Allison, an extraordinary young woman who lived with Derek’s conflicts and slowly moved him to leave his hate behind. She played by Derek’s own rules, curiosity and intellectualism, and posed arguments he couldn’t counter. After all, would he want to deport (or worse) his college friends just because of their ethnicity? When he realized the answer was “Of course not,” he had reached a point of no return. Checkmate.
Derek graduates. He stays with Allison. And the biography ends there. But the journey is unfinished. Why? Derek and Allison seem to wind up as garden variety, anti-curiosity, anti-intellectual, anti-Trump Liberals, 96% on an internet quiz. I doubt that’s the end of the story. But this book is written by one Eli Saslow, writer for the Washington Post and, worse, man with an agenda. Mr. Saslow portrays the 2016 election as a complete triumph for White Nationalism and President Trump’s 60 million supporters as the same. If that signals the end of Derek’s journey then it was a short one indeed. If all Derek accomplished was to abandon the David Duke hate-Blacks-and-Jews philosophy for the Al Sharpton hate-Whites-and-Jews philosophy, then Derek still has a long way to go.
I doubt Derek will ever read this essay. But on the off chance he does I suggest the following: Come back and visit the Republican Party of Palm Beach County. Meet some of our elected officials; our Chairman, a Black attorney. Another is a faith-based school owner who accepts “Step Up” (Opportunity) Scholarships for poor Minority students seeking escape from failing public schools. And we have a Jew married to a Catholic. And then there’s the Harvard alum. You get the idea. We’re not exactly the Eli Saslow stereotypes that you have been told about. Yes, this is the same committee you sought a seat on years ago.
And Derek Black should continue to learn the following: It’s not Left or Right. It’s Collectivism versus Individualism. It’s the Collectivism of “judging people by the color of their skin versus the Individualism of “judging people by the content of their character.”
I wish Derek well as he continues on his Unfinished Journey.
Sid Dinerstein is a former chairman of the Palm Beach County Republican Party. He founded JBS Associates, a 600-person financial service company, and currently combines politics and business with Niger Innis in Inclusive Elections LLC, a firm that brings urban electorate voters to the GOP. He is the author of "Adults Only: For Those Who Love Their Country More Than Their Party." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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