Pulitzer prize winner visits Oregon State University, discusses new book

Eli Saslow speaks with Orange Media Network members. 

Evan Baughman, News Contributor

Pulitzer Prize winning-author Eli Saslow visited the Oregon State University campus Thursday afternoon, discussing his new book “Rising Out of Hatred: the Awakening of a Former White Nationalist.”

Saslow, who won a Pulitzer in 2014 for explanatory reporting on food stamp usage in America, engaged in an hour-long discussion with students and faculty at the LaSells Stewart Center. He spoke on details regarding his investigative report chronicling former white nationalist Derek Black. Saslow said he thought the discussion he brought to OSU was relevant to the college’s own recent racial tensions.

Black, who is the son of prominent white supremacist Don Black, reformed his ideology upon enrolling in New College of Florida. Saslow traveled around the country conducting interviews with Derek Black and those who knew him, including people who helped indoctrinate him into white nationalism and those who influenced him to change.

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Saslow began the discussion explaining to the audience about Derek Black, his family history, and the fact that he has renounced white nationalism. He then went on to explain other concepts such as the definition of white nationalism, the conspiracy of white genocide, as well how he felt when interviewing white supremacists. Saslow said he does not want people to think of Derek Black as a hero for his renouncement of white nationalism, rather to think of it as a story of rightful transformation.

The discussion continued on to the story of two students at New College of Florida, who decided to attempt to build a relationship with Black rather than ostracize him in order to encourage Black to question his ideology. The first two people to do so were named Matthew and Moshe, who were two Jewish students at the college.

“Moshe decided that what he wanted to do was to invite Derek over and see if he would come,” Saslow said. “Because Derek had been made to feel vulnerable effectively by the protests on campus, he was much more likely to accept this invitation.

Saslow said he wanted to bring this discussion to Oregon State University because the school has recently dealt with its own issues regarding racism, and he thinks colleges are currently a common place for white nationalism to fester.

“I knew that you guys have faced some of these issues, that some of these ideas have been present in this space here, and students have had to deal with other students spouting this ideology.” Saslow said. “So that made it feel like a really natural fit. But also I have been talking about the book at a lot of colleges. In part because colleges right now are kind of a scary place for these ideas. Just on college campuses, according to the FBI, hate crimes went up 70 percent on campuses just in the last year. Incidents of Nazi insignia on campuses have quadrupled. These movements have found a real recruiting space at colleges, which makes it feel like an important place to talk about it.”

Saslow’s book “Rising Out of Hatred: the Awakening of a Former White Nationalist” is available for purchase locally as well as online.