Change Is Possible! Former KKK Member Now Dedicates His Time To Promoting Anti-Hate Mission
After living most of his life filled with anger and hate toward different races, he is showing that even the most hardened among us can change.
Army veteran Chris Buckley has undergone changes in his life that most of us can't even imagine. Buckley is a former member of the Ku Klux Klan who used to despise anyone who looked different than him. His racist views were established early on his life, from his rough upbringing in Cleveland, OH to his 13 years of service in the U.S. Army where he learned to hate Muslims.
His personal views became even more solidified after September 11, 2001 when he was a high schooler looking on in horror as two planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City.
"I would sit around and think about it, just like the angrier and angrier I would get," Buckley told USA Today. "I guess I started tapping into those hurtful, resentful emotions that I had trapped inside of me and used it to fuel that anger and that hate. I kind of felt like it was my duty to attack back."
Buckley served in Afghanistan and Iraq before joining the KKK. Chris Buckley/Facebook
Buckley left the military when he broke his back in a Humvee accident. He grew even more aggravated.
"This was my introduction to opioid painkillers. Coupled with the anger of being overseas, not understanding what I went through, coming home, you mix that with drugs, and you get real angry. You just want somebody to blame," he said. "You find yourself in midst of going from what people call you as an American hero to a purely destructive force to this country and everything it stands for."
Buckley recalls feeling intense anger after returning from the military. He also developed a drug addiction because of his injuries. Chris Buckley/Facebook
Buckley became an honored official in the Georgia White Knights chapter of the KKK. He had a son and began to pass on his racist behavior to him.
Here's Buckley talking about his mission with Parents 4 Peace...
video c/o @Chrisbu94982722
Thankfully, Buckley crossed paths with Arno Michaelis in 2016 and his views on white supremacy started to change.
Michaelis used to be a member of one of the largest racist skinhead organizations in the country. After having a change of heart in the early 2000's, he dedicated his life to helping others out of similar situations.
Here's Buckley with Arno Michaelis (L) and Heval Kelli (R). Both men helped Buckley change his views on white supremacy. Chris Buckley/Facebook
After Buckley's wife contacted Michaelis for advice on how to help her husband, whose behavior was becoming more and more dangerous, Michaelis flew to Georgia to speak with him personally.
But change didn't come easy.
Buckley even threated Michaelis' life at one point – but, Michaelis didn't give up.
Over time, Buckley started to welcome new viewpoints and the support he received from the local Black, Muslim and refugee communities inspired him to join the organization 'Parents 4 Peace,' a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the youth from racist ideologies and helping white nationalists to let go of their dangerous stereotypes.
Now Buckley works with the organization Parents 4 Peace and speaks to young people about how to break down racism and harmful stereotypes. Chris Buckley/Facebook
Now, Buckley travels the country with his Muslim colleague, Heval Kelli, who he met through Michaelis. The two have been speaking to young people about their experiences with Islamophobia and how to become an advocate for unity. Buckley is also working on a 12-step program to help other people leave hate groups, like he did.
"I always tell people there's not only a life after hate, there's life after change, and it takes time," Kelli said.
What an inspiring story about people working together to bring about positive change. Kudos to Buckley, who has shown that it's always better to be kind to others, even if they don't look like you.
Buckley calls Kelli his "brother." Chris Buckley/Facebook