Smile for the Devil

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He's a natural talker, eloquent, with a great mind for facts and names, and he takes no shit. No surprise, then, that a few years ago he ascended to the higher ranks of a skinhead crew that calls itself Colorblind.

The name is no accident. Diablo and others who claim to be antiracist skinheads know that their appearance evokes neo-Nazi thugs, too many of whom make Florida their home. (According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Florida has more active white-power hate groups -- 43 -- than any other state.) To prove that they don't ascribe to white supremacist views, antiracist skins like Diablo say they feel an obligation to beat the tar out of Nazi skins who dare to show up at concerts. Diablo says that Colorblind is the dominant antiracist skin crew in South Florida and that their numbers keep the racist skins at bay.

"In the mid-'90s, there were a lot more white-power groups," says Doorag, Diablo's DVD partner. "They're cowards. They won't keep coming back."

Still, Diablo knows that outsiders don't make fine distinctions. "We're always going to be labeled as Nazis," he says. "That's never going to change. People think skinheads, Nazis; skinheads, KKK."

Diablo insists that to understand him, you have to go back to the roots of the skinhead movement in mid-to-late-'60s Britain. Influenced by the smart culture of the mods and the music and dress of black West Indian immigrants, known as rude boys, early skinhead culture grew up around dancehall reggae, celebrated the working class, and fueled violence at soccer matches. In the 1980s, skins in America identified with the same fuckyouism, by then intertwined with hardcore culture. While a faction metastasized into the white-power movement, other young people rejected the racists and formed their own movements -- notably the Anti-Racist Action Skins and Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice, with which Diablo and Doorag claim affiliation.

If Diablo has anything in common with white-power skins, other than the shaved head and a don't-fuck-with-me demeanor, it's an affinity for mythology and Nietzsche. But Diablo has omnivorous tastes. On a night he welcomed guests to his home, there sat on a small dining table a copy of the Bible and a copy of Hobbes' Leviathan with a bookmark at the beginning of chapter 43, titled "On what is necessary for a mans reception into the kingdome of heaven." Diablo showed off his modest collection of Star Wars comics and toys and the Marvel comics pinned along walls above posters of professional wrestlers and magazine covers depicting Eminem and Ben Franklin. In his bedroom were piled books from every corner of spirituality, from the Bhagavad-Gita to the Tao Te Ching and old Freemasons manuals. Over beers, talk turned to rap. "You want to hear some real pro-black shit?" he asked. He cued up a 1991 album by rapper Paris, who had on this particular track included a speech by Black Panther leader Huey Newton. "This is way beyond Public Enemy," he said, almost giddy.

The participants on the DVD make a point of distancing themselves from racist skins. In one scene, on a darkened street, a black hearse is shown parked in front of the now-closed Clematis Street club Spanky's. Out of the left side of the screen flies a cinder block that makes a frosty crater in the windshield.

"Holy crap, God punished them!" a voice says. "A brick just came out of the sky and hit the Nazi car! Poor fuckin' shitty Nazis!" The camera zooms in on swastika stickers on the hearse.

Diablo explains: "These jokers parked their motherfuckin' hearse in front of our club -- with swastikas on it. And we waited around the car until 4 or 5 in the morning. No one came to claim the car, for one reason or another. And a brick ended up going through the window. We took exception to those swastikas. To a lot of people, a swastika is not a big deal; it's like a 'fuck you.' Being part of the movement that we're part of, we're adamantly opposed to people displaying that symbol."

Three of Diablo's Bolt Action bandmates, however, admit that they find the racist/antiracist skinhead distinctions confusing. MC (and Colorblind member) T. Black, drummer Del Smith, and guitarist Dee Mulligan say it's hard keeping track of who's on which side, with some guys in the scene switching allegiances.

Says Mulligan, a mass of a man who wears a braided chain on his blue FUBU jersey: "It's too technical."

After midnight on a Friday, Bolt Action takes the stage at Churchill's Hideaway in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood, launching into an assault of hardcore thrash rock spiced with rapping. And how's this for a stage show: Without warning, Diablo leaps at T. Black feet-first, planting boot tips in his bandmate's chest. Diablo falls to the stage, suffering a grapefruit-sized bruise, and T. Black is blasted off it, flailing wildly as he falls to the floor, crashing onto some poor bastard who happens to be walking past. The two end up in a tangle by the bar. Then T. Black gathers himself and bounds back onto the stage.

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Sam Eifling
Contact: Sam Eifling