timberland shop belfast A Journey from White Supremacy to Equality
A person who preaches love and acceptance used to march for hate. Boots Parker is an advocate for LGBTQ rights, and equality in general. Getting to this position was not easy, though. Growing up, Parker had a secret. When the secret got out, peers and family turned against Parker. That led to a dark path.
If you’ve been to Sioux Falls Pride, or any march for equality, you probably know Boots Parker.
Parker’s goal is to make sure everyone feels welcome. By supporting LGBTQ, women’s, and certain political causes; Parker is leaving a mark of acceptance on the community. That is why you may be surprised to see certain marks on Parker. A large tattoo of Hitler is just one reminder of Parker’s time in a white supremacy group.
“I really enjoyed the rush I got out of it. Especially being in a group, being called to a higher purpose. I joined because I was hateful and because I was lost,” Parker said.
To better understand how Parker’s journey led to this point, you have to walk back to where it started.
“I recognized I was a lesbian when I was five years old,” Parker said.
That secret did not stay secret for long. Parker, who also identifies as non binary in terms of gender and prefers the pronouns they, them, and their, says their parents institutionalized and disowned them.
“It just changed overnight. The changes were more devastating than the judgment of it,” Parker said.
Those changes led to feelings of isolation, suicide, and anger.
“The only person that hated me more than my family was myself. And I ended up running into another friend who was also hateful toward himself and his family. And he was actually a Nazi,” Parker said.
According to the Anti Defamation League, “White supremacist ideology in the United States today is dominated by the belief that whites are doomed to extinction by a rising tide of non whites.”
There are a number of different components, including neo Nazis, racist skinheads, along with “traditional” white supremacists. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors these extremist groups, there were 917 of them in the United States last year.
During the year and a half Parker was in the group, Parker says something didn’t add up. Parker never felt racist or bought into the idea that a race or religious group was better than another. So, why did Parker stay? Parker says it just felt nice being a part of a group even if it was a hate group.
“We end up being a lot of lost boys that come together as a family,” Parker said.
Licensed psychologist Susan Eleeson says what Parker went through is not uncommon.
“Someone who is emotionally starving, they’re not going to turn away being accepted and having a place to land. A starving person isn’t going to turn away a meal,” Eleeson said.
Eleeson says many groups have historically banked on this fact.
“They’re looking for people who do feel lonely or feel isolated and then they manipulate that need to be accepted or cared about and then they will have somebody who will follow whatever they want,” Eleeson said.
“Pretty much name calling and intimidation. You get into a big group of people and you start throwing salutes and start marching down the street with a Nazi flag and you feel pretty big and powerful,” Parker said.
To be clear, Parker never physically hurt anyone. At some point, Parker knew it was time to get out. It was not easy, but eventually Parker joined the Center for Equality, now known as Sioux Falls Pride.
“(It) felt amazing to be able to be around non judgmental people people who were in healthy places in their lives, trying to partake in the community and make the community a better place. It’s just like I found my home,” Parker said.
Parker doesn’t condone hate or violence, but isn’t ashamed of what happened in the past. Parker is sharing this story to help others show love and support toward each other.
“It’s really important people who have suffered that get out and say, ‘yeah, I’ve been through it, too, but we can all be strong together,” Parker said.
It’s easy to get lost along the way when you’re on the road to acceptance.
“I am a culmination of everything I’ve worked for. It’s not wrong to be proud of that. That took blood, sweat, tears and a lot of mistakes,” Parker said.