I didn’t notice the swastika tattooed on his arm at first. My boyfriend kept trying to point it out to me, but I didn’t want to stare. Besides, it was on the underside of his arm, anyway.
I was sitting next to a self-proclaimed white nationalist in the middle of the York Galleria food court. One of the tallest people I had ever met, he had long brown hair and black eyeliner around his eyes. I hadn’t said anything as he chatted with a few of the people sitting at our table, that is, until he announced that his “Jew-dar” was going off and turned to me.
What gave it away, the nose? Don’t worry, I know. I just smiled — my friends often joke playfully with me about it.
As we began to talk, he proudly lifted up his arm so I could see the swastika. And then, of course, I had to ask his incentive for picking that particular symbol.
It just represents my pride, he replied. What, you’re uncomfortable?
I shifted in my seat a little.
Oh, don’t worry, she’s not even religious anyway, one of my friends said. She’s just proud of her Jewish heritage.
Is that true? he asked me.
I shrugged. Yeah, I guess so.
Now see, that’s exactly what I am: proud, I remember him saying. I’m proud of my white heritage. OK, I’m actually also Native American, but there aren’t enough of us around to really be proud of that. But I’m the white working man: I got my work boots and my suspenders.
You have to be white to be the working man? I wondered to myself.
I don’t hate blacks, Jews, Asians or Mexicans, he said. But then he went on to list a whole slew of derogatory terms for those exact people, emphasizing that he hated the people who match those stereotypes.
I hate black people who sell crack, he said.
Well, white people sell crack, too, I responded.
Yeah, I know, he replied. Basically, I just hate scumbags.
I had to admit that I wasn’t particularly fond of them either, and I didn’t think most people were.
For the rest of the time, he proceeded to make fun of my “Jew nose.” I’m used to it and I laughed along.
He ended up being really funny, in his own way, and he’ll always stick out in my mind. He’s the only white nationalist whom I’ve ever met — or at least the only white nationalist I’ve met who announced what he is.
But what got me thinking is that even though he’s hateful against the people who emulate the stereotypes of certain races, is it really so bad to be proud of your race — no matter what it is — black, white, Asian, Latino, or anything else? Why is it that Caucasians who are proud of their heritage are considered racist? Maybe it’s just become politically incorrect.
I wouldn’t call myself a white nationalist, but it’s just worth pondering.
–ARIEL SIEGELMAN, YORK SUBURBAN HIGH SCHOOL