By Dr. Orlee Hauser
Director, Care Café
The aftermath of the riot at the Capitol highlighted the emergence of hateful messages on social media. In response, Wurzweiler School of Social Work’s Care Café decided to fight hate with the only two weapons that work to destroy it: education and love.
For this, they turned to a surprising source of inspiration, inviting two friends, both affected by hate in different ways, to speak to an audience made up of YU students, staff and members of the general public.
On Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, via the magic of a webinar, Care Café was fortunate to host this pair of unlikely friends: Pardeep Kaleka, who lost his father in one of the deadliest mass murder hate crimes committed in U.S. history when a white supremacist murdered six people and wounded four others in an attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, on August 5, 2012 (a seventh victim died of his wounds in 2020), and Arno Michaelis, a former skinhead and founder of one of the largest racist skinhead organizations in the world, Hammerskin Nation, who had spent years of his life committing terrible acts in the name of white power. In the aftermath of his father’s murder, Pardeep reached out to Arno for answers. What would follow this meeting was a journey of two men who breached a great divide to find brotherhood and love.
The discussion by Pardeep and Arno was highly interactive and directed by questions from the audience. Many wanted to know what makes young people susceptible to joining white power movements in the first place and, also, what helps people to leave. The answers given were not simple, yet they focused on the idea that hurt creates hurt (as Arno said at one point, “Hurt people hurt people”) and that white power movements prey on those vulnerable to falling for hateful vitriol as a tool for healing their own wounds and expressing their anger at their own life circumstances. It is a tool that does not work.
Their Care Café talk showcased how one can leave a hateful past behind and how one can use the aftermath of hateful events to further healing.