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Former skinhead speaks at Cuyahoga Community College about living a hate-filled lifestyle

Posted at 5:27 PM, Mar 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-01 19:56:41-05

CLEVELAND — Christian Picciolini told a group of listeners at Cuyahoga Community College that was recruited to become a skinhead while growing up in Chicago.

Picciolini said that he was raised well, but his parents worked hard, so they couldn’t watch his every move.

“I had everything I should’ve had to have for a decent life,” Picciolini said. “1987 — nobody in America knew what a skinhead was at that point. I didn’t come from a racist home.”

He was 14 when he began living a hate-filled lifestyle.

“That’s how I had been taught, that’s how I had been brainwashed, and that’s how I then used that information to recruit other people,” Picciolini said. “I really didn’t see what I was doing wrong; I thought I was saving the world.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, American’s saw a 50 percent increase in white nationalist groups in 2018.

Picciolini said he spent eight years as a skinhead. It would take his wife and kids leaving him for him to walk away.

“I had prioritized the movement more than my family. I needed to leave, or I was going to die,” said Picciolini.

To atone, he has been traveling and speaking to groups, hoping to deter white supremacy. Picciolini recently released a book describing his experiences, "White American Youth: My Descent Into America's Most Violent Hate Movement--and How I Got Out."

“I think there are a lot of white Americans who may be afraid to admit there is a white supremacist problem in the United States, because by default, that would mean they were complicit in something,” said Picciolini.