These volunteers know what it is like to be fooled into believing racist propaganda – which is exactly why they have now dedicated their lives to assisting other extremists to see the light.
Life After Hate is a nonprofit that employs former neo-Nazis and white supremacists to help others renounce their extremism and hateful lifestyles.
While Life After Hate is based in Chicago, their Exit program has cropped up in several countries around the world, including Germany, Sweden, the UK, and Norway.
“Through personal experience and highly unique skill sets, we have developed a sophisticated understanding about what draws individuals to extremist groups and, equally important, why they leave,” says the organization. “Compassion is the opposite of judgment and we understand the roles compassion and empathy play in healing individuals and communities.”
In addition to providing counseling and community, the organization also assists their clients in more physical ways: helping them find jobs, get tattoo removals – even move houses.
While it is unclear exactly how many former members have experienced such a shift in perspective, the organization says that they have experienced a surge in phone calls and emails in recent months. The trained volunteers, however, are always ready to answer.
Exit UK states on their website: “We believe one of the most crucial steps is simply talking through and sharing with people, formers stories. Accepting what you have done, what you have believed and coming to terms with that.
“We know many people will never want to talk to people with ‘Far Right’ views as they simply will never understand how people can become involved, but we do and it is from this position we can talk, listen and develop real relationships and offer alternatives, that don’t include violence and hatred.”
Due to a recent cut in federal funding, the nonprofit is currently seeking financing through crowdsourcing and donations. Life After Hate hopes to further their work by utilizing online strategies to dissuade and discourage susceptible individuals from extremist rhetoric on social media. Additionally, they hope to partner with Muslim community representatives in order to combat ISIS-inspired extremism.
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Reprint (Photo by Andrew and Hobbes, CC)