Former white supremacist speaks out
Successful author and “recovering skinhead” Frank Meeink visited Beaumont’s Antioch Missionary Baptist Church on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday, Feb. 26, to promote his book “Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead” and to speak to those gathered about how hate and violence once ruled his life.
U.S. Attorney John Malcolm Bales and Assistant U.S. Attorney John Ross presented a video about gang violence that featured information and photos from the SWS murder of Jason Lee Sedtal, killed per the orders of the ABT on March 14, 2011, and found in the trunk of a burned car in Hardin County.
Bales touted Ross’ prosecution of the 12 defendants named in the indictment pertaining to Sedtal’s death and said he envisions a better future.
“I do imagine a world without hate,” Bales said at the gathering, “but there is much to do.”
Antioch Pastor John Adolph admired the diversity of the group gathered and thanked Gift of Life’s Regina Rogers for her part in assisting in the organization of the event.
“It took a special lady who we love so much (to make the event happen),” Adolph said. “Thank God for the life and journey of Regina Rogers.”
He went on to say he was “excited” about Meeink’s visit and looked forward to the positive message he would be sending.
Meeink stepped up to the podium and told the group about his childhood, a childhood that was marred by his parents’ addictions and family violence. After his mother and father separated, Meeink’s mother remarried “a drunk and drug addict who liked to put his hands on” him. After beating Meeink, who was just a boy, his stepfather would brag to his friends about it. That was just a taste of what Meeink had to deal with as a child growing up in Philadelphia.
“I was ‘different,’” Meeink said referring to how the other kids saw him.
That difference made him feel separate and alone, and he longed for acceptance. When he moved to Lancaster, Penn., when he was 14 and lived with his cousin, he found that acceptance within a group of white supremacists.
Meeink described one night out with his cousin and their skinhead “friends.” The gang wanted to start a fight at a local concert and went inside the bar harassing some patrons. After being kicked out of the bar, he and his friends waited outside. He and one of the skinheads approached a patron of the bar with whom they had been arguing earlier in the evening. What Meeink experienced was a defining moment for him at the time. He saw the man was scared, and that excited him.
“Fear,” Meeink said. “He felt it and I loved it.”
Meeink said he had been in a constant state of fear his whole life, and to cause someone else to feel that way made him feel powerful.
By age 17, Meeink had a cable-access television show called “The Reich,” a white supremacist program. During that same year, Meeink was arrested for aggravated kidnapping after abducting and torturing a man who he felt had “disrespected” him. Meeink was tried as an adult and went to prison.
In prison, he associated with other white supremacists, but eventually his love of sports led him down a different path. He said he got tired of playing basketball with his gang and asked to join a football game with some black inmates. At first, they were hesitant to let him join the game, but he quickly proved himself on the field.
“They started calling me Steve (after wide receiver Steve Largent),” Meeink remembered, smiling. Also while incarcerated, Meeink began reading a variety of religious texts.
After he was released from prison, a convicted felon, he struggled to find employment. He was eventually hired by a Jewish man named Keith. He said before that, he hated Jews, but after some time he began to identify with Keith and realized they were much the same. They had difficulties throughout their lives that each had to overcome, and that helped Meeink turn another corner. His hate was dwindling.
According to Meeink, the final factor in his complete turnaround was the Oklahoma City bombing. He said he could no longer just stand by and watch ignorance and enmity rule. He saw a striking photograph of a firefighter carrying a little girl away from the burning federal building that “wrecked” him. He then walked into the FBI, told them his story and asked how he could help. That is how his motivational speaking career started.
Meeink encouraged those present to do what they can to help troubled youth. He said empathy is the best gift one can give to struggling young people.
“Empathy works,” Meeink reiterated.
Meeink’s message was clear: less hate and more empathy is what will make a difference to the troubled youth of the world and the defeat of racism, gangs and hate in general.