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Reformed racist expresses regret for previous life with KKK

Says Buffalo mass killing brought him deep guilt
Scott Shepherd.jpg
Posted at 4:26 PM, May 20, 2022

CLEVELAND — He recruited young people into the world of the Ku Klux Klan. A man who calls himself a reformed racist now feels guilt after the mass killing in Buffalo nearly one week ago.

Scott Shepherd was two years younger than the accused Buffalo mass shooter when he got into the KKK in 1976.

“I actually got involved when I was 16 years old,” said Shepherd, who said he came from a dysfunctional family.

He even recruited for the Klan.

“I may have ruined their lives, and some of them may have or will go off and do the same thing this young man did,” said Shepherd.

News 5 Investigators asked Shepherd if he had a hatred for Black people when he joined.

“Actually no, I wasn’t raised by racist parents,” he said.

“I had to fit in with the group, so they just influenced me, and I did develop hatred for Blacks and Jews,” Shepherd said.

Dr. Eric Allard is an associate professor of psychology at Cleveland State University. Allard says people without strong rooted family backgrounds may seek that elsewhere.

“The individuals are sort of in a critical period for what sort of ideological worldview value system they want to adhere to,” said Allard.

Allard says persuasion is done over time, beginning with trust. “Easing you into thinking in this particular way,” said Allard.

Shepherd says he used the same selling points that were used on him on his recruits.

“They put their arm around my shoulders, said, 'We know you had a bad life. We’ll take you, protect you, teach you,'” said Shepherd.

“I’m very grateful to get out and do what I’m doing,” Shepherd said.

While Shepherd is grateful to have stepped away from that life, he says he has regrets. He says he was involved in cross lightings and physical confrontations.

“The severe violence that was perpetrated by the Klan, that was all done by what they call the inner circle,” Shepherd said.

Allard says people with certain characteristics can reverse course. “The individuals who tend to be able to be at least self-reflective,” Allard said.

Shepherd ignored several moments to walk away. He says it wasn’t until he met a Black musician who persuaded Klansmen to abandon the robes and hoods.

Shepherd is now an anti-racism activist.

“Trying to keep young people just like the man in Buffalo from getting involved and falling for the same tactics that I did,” said Shepherd.

The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks hate groups across the country. In 2021, it found more than 700 nationwide with 20 active in Ohio with Cleveland chapters.

The feds prosecute civil rights violations including hate crimes. In the last five years, seven civil rights cases were filed in the Northern District of Ohio with one hate crime conviction in 2021.

The FBI encourages people to report hate crimes, calling it one of its top priorities. You can remain anonymous. Call 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit a tip at tips.FBI.gov.

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