Source: Washington Post
Half a century ago, Thomas Tarrants — a child of Mobile, Ala. — felt like the country was changing for the worse. The civil rights movement infuriated him. His hatred of African Americans and Jews led him straight into the arms of the Ku Klux Klan. Hate led him to participate in a group that bombed Mississippi synagogues. Hate led him to prison.
Now, he recognizes the same anger in a growing number of young men in 2019. And Tarrants, who renounced his white-supremacist past decades ago, feels compelled to warn others away from the path he traveled.
The solution he proposes: Christianity.
“I’ve shared over the years, from time to time, how God changed my life. I’ve seen the tremendous encouragement it brings to people. It helps them see that God is real and active in the world,” he said. “And if you’re a believer, you’re going to have friends across racial groups.”
Tarrants’s grim conviction — that the Trump era bears many of the hallmarks of the time that prompted him to join the KKK — has led him to tell his story and urge his religion as an antidote, in a book he published last month.
“People can be seduced by these things when the climate is right,” he said, comparing the current era not just to the 1960s but to Nazi Germany. “There is no reason that cannot happen again. It’s a very shocking thought. . . . I don’t want to prophesy. I think we’re seeing things today that should be causing people to ask questions.”
Tarrants’s own story is a turbulent one. His relationship with his father was troubled, and he found role models instead as a teen in his white-supremacist neighbors. Carrying a bomb to a Jewish civil rights leader’s house in 1968, he was stopped by FBI agents investigating his KKK group, which had been terrorizing Mississippi’s Jews. The FBI chased Tarrants and his companion, then engaged them in a bloody shootout: The woman with Tarrants was killed, and he was shot four times at close range. He survived.