One of the most fascinating outcomes of the recent controversy surrounding Ellen DeGeneres and President George W. Bush (you can read our take here) is a discussion about the “limits” of kindness. In an article for Vanity Fair, cultural critic Laura Bradley argues that there are instances where “unconditional kindness” may not be appropriate, especially when “one person has historically believed other people should not have the same basic rights as another.” Actor Mark Ruffalo put it this way, tweeting: “Sorry, until George W. Bush is brought to justice for the crimes of the Iraq War, (including American-lead torture, Iraqi deaths & displacement and the deep scars—emotional & otherwise—inflicted on our military that served his folly), we can’t even begin to talk about kindness.”
One big question, then, simmering beneath all of this, is this: should kindness have limits?
I could try to answer that. I probably shouldn’t. As someone who has benefitted from centuries of privilege, I don’t necessarily think it’s my place to tell people, definitively, what kindness should look like, especially if those people are part of historically oppressed and maligned groups.
So I won’t. Instead, I’m going to tell a story of kindness taken to its outermost limits, much farther than many of us would probably be comfortable with.
Derek Black was once referred to as the “leading light” of the white nationalist movement. His father, Don Black, founded Stormfront, the first and most trafficked white nationalist website. David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the KKK, is Derek’s godfather. At age 10, Derek created KidsStormfront, a youth-oriented version of his father’s site, and from that point on, he became a spokesperson for the white nationalist movement. He was frequently interviewed by the press. He began a radio show that broadcasted five days a week, where he interviewed likeminded people and popularized the notion of “white genocide.” Derek spoke at conferences, ran for a Republican council seat at 19 and continued to collaborate with his father. To everyone within and outside the movement, Derek was the “heir apparent.” And then, Derek went to college.
Initially, Derek fit right in at New College in Sarasota, Florida, which was odd, considering the school is highly diverse and one of the most liberal in the county. With his long red hair and passion for medieval re-enactments, Derek was just one of the many quirky individuals that called New College home. But then, about a year into school, Derek saw a post about him on the school message board. A student had been researching hate groups and come across Derek’s picture. “Derek black: white supremacist, radio host…new college student???” the student wrote. “How do we as a community respond?”
Initially, the response was outrage. Friends contacted Derek, expressing betrayal and anger. The comments on the initial post now totaled more than a thousand. Derek’s reaction was to apply to live off-campus, isolate himself and organize a conference focused on arguing white nationalist ideals in liberal spaces. It was at this point that student Matthew Stevenson did something unthinkable, then and especially now: he invited Derek over to dinner.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Hayden Royster