• Scott Shepherd and Rebecca Hawkins (The Atlantic)Source: The Atlantic
“I was a member of the Klan for about 19 years... I lost years of love, of affection, of friendship," tells a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Tennessee, USA.
Sam Carroll

2 Mar 2017 - 3:09 PM  UPDATED 3 Mar 2017 - 12:14 PM

The ex-Ku Klux Klan member, Scott Shepherd, has rejected the concept of racism and is now representing himself as a 'reformed racist' working to end racial discrimination within the United States.

In a video produced by Independent Lens and published by The Atlantic, Shepherd discusses his troubled past that led to him joining the hate group, including being brought up by an alcoholic father while being neglected by his grandmother.

In the film, the activist explains how much of his parenting came from his family's former carer Rebecca Hawkins, an African-American now aged 102 who describes Shepherd as her "baby", with the reformed racist expressing his regret at disconnecting himself from the woman who raised him whilst following a path of hate.

"I disassociated myself from the lady that raised me - I wanted to see her, I just couldn't bring myself to do it - a lot of it was embarrassment and guilt," Shepherd tells Independent Lens. 

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Reflecting on Scott's role with the KKK and their now rekindled relationship, Hawkins stated his time with the extremist group had no impact on how she felt about him.

“It didn’t change anything,” Hawkins says while being interviewed with Shepherd.

“I didn’t like it – and if you had stayed that way I wouldn’t have liked you!”

Scott Shepherd and Rebecca Hawkins

So what does it take to move past your racist beliefs when they are so deeply ingrained in your life?

After joining the Klan in the 1960s, things changed for the activist when he was arrested in the early 1990s for driving under the influence and possession of an illegal weapon while being investigated by the FBI, before spending a stint in rehabilitation.

“When I went into rehab there was people of all races and religions – I was forced to sit down with all these people, we shared life stories and intimate conversations – I went in one person and came out another,”  Shepherd says. 

“I was a member of the Klan for about 19 years... I lost years of love, of affection, of friendship.

"Now I spend my time speaking across the country against racism – my mission is to speak to some of these young people and try to prevent them from falling into the same place that I fell into.”

Watch the video below, produced by Independent Lens and published by The Atlantic.

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