The Racist Next Door | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


The Racist Next Door

Beads of perspiration slide into his bloodshot eyes. The underarms of his shirt are soaked through, leaving salty circles. And the former grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is now sweating through his second cotton polo shirt in four hours. It's not that humid, but Don Black, the 44-year-old ex-chief of the sheet-shrouded fraternity of racists, fears he's setting himself up to be smeared by the press on Martin Luther King Day. The media -- a cabal of Jews intent on weaving lies -- has it in for him, he says. But the lure of publicity proves too much. He can't pass on the opportunity.

The bulky bigot plods north along South Olive Avenue in West Palm Beach, tugging at the hand of his eight-year-old son. Black disregards the Guatemalan immigrants grooming the row of manicured lawns. Clad in khaki pants and bright white tennis shoes, the 6-foot-3-inch man with the helmet of gently graying hair effects more a suburban soccer dad than a frothy monomaniac poised to lead the next Civil War. Yet Black's beefy shoulders, like the indelible numbers branded onto Holocaust survivors, reveal that which can't be concealed -- a criminal history marked by a three-year prison term for plotting a coup on a mostly black Caribbean island. And now the former national KKK leader is crusading to split the country along racial lines as the vanguard of white supremacy on the Internet.

Black's swastika-strewn "Stormfront" -- the only white supremacist Website on the Internet before the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City -- is identified as "the trailblazer" and "the granddaddy of extremism" in on-line racism by staunch critics like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. Their concerns are not unfounded. Black is capable and has a distinct vision.

"We see the breakup [of the United States] coming in about twenty years -- it's a natural progression of events," says Black, walking hand-in-hand with his son to their lemon tree-shaded clapboard home in West Palm Beach. "The Internet is a means of planting seeds for the future. There are a lot of middle-class people who feel disaffected -- and in Stormfront they can find what they can't in the mass media. It's about building a community and attracting hard-core supporters.

"We don't use the 'nigger, nigger' type of approaches," he says, showing disdain for name-calling. He now prefers quasi-scientific or pseudointellectual identifications of racial differences. "We don't want to present the Jerry Springer or Geraldo Rivera image of rabid racists. There are a lot of people who want to agree with us. They just don't want to be associated with that."

Black and son stroll past the scores of squat mission-style homes in their Central Park neighborhood. The red-haired boy's out of school for the day celebrating Robert E. Lee's birthday, unlike the four black children in his third-grade class at Palm Beach Public School. "I'm not into Martin Luther King's birthday, of course," Black explains. "It's an example of a government that no longer represents the interest of the majority of its people. One that no longer represents the heritage of this country. But the minority liberal, multicultural orthodoxy in this county has determined him to be a national hero. And while most Americans opposed the holiday -- white Americans, of course -- they now have to accept it, like they have accepted everything imposed on them."

A few miles north, city officials are breaking ground for a $300,000 Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial at Currie Park on Flagler Drive. In the Latino Southdale neighborhood to the south, salsa is heard more than country. And sandwiching Central Park's stucco façades and Mediterranean-style bungalows are bodegas scattered along Dixie Highway to the west and a row of high-rise apartment buildings hugging the Intracoastal to the east that house many elderly Jews.

"It bothers me this area is more Guatemalan than American. It bothers me to wait in line at Publix for a Guatemalan to get out his food stamps. I don't want to pay taxes for them," says Black, who admits to years of chiding by fellow white supremacists for such an ill-fated family name. "It's too much like New York -- it's the front lines of the third-world invasion." He pauses then adds that he doesn't hate people of other races. In fact he admires resourceful leaders like Louis Farrakhan and Mexico's Zapatista rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos. They should just live in other countries, he says.

There's an upside to spurring a revolution with the click of a mouse instead of a flaming cross: Black can spread his screed to the rest of the world without rankling his next-door neighbors. And he can do it in the den of South Florida's 18,400 Holocaust survivors and more than 620,000 Jews, 1.4 million Hispanics, and 814,000 blacks. A 30-year-old black neighbor who lives two doors from one of the nation's most outspoken racists has only heard rumors about the ex-Klansman. In the four years they've been neighbors, the man has only a few times glimpsed Black walking his scruffy German shepherd Heidi and his Belgian shepherd Gwen.