Steven Cole Smith
A frightening look at skinheads
It would be so easy to dismiss the people featured in Skinheads USA: Soldiers of the Race War as pathetic reject crackers. Certainly, there is ample evidence here to support that. But to those among us who grew up in the South, simple definitions don’t apply.
Skinheads, an hourlong HBO America Undercover documentary that premieres at 9 tomorrow night, is a clear-headed look into the Alabama-based Aryan National Front, headed by three-time felon, Bill Riccio, an auto parts store manager. The headquarters are Riccio’s rustic “compound,” located in the woods about 20 miles from Birmingham. The Aryan National Front unabashedly worships Adolf Hitler, and its immediate goal is declare Alabama a minority- and gay-free zone.
Riccio appears to be about 35, paunchy and inbred. He is not a white Louis Farrakhan, but it would be convenient if he were. He has surrounded himself with young white males, most all teen-agers, most all from troubled homes. Riccio gives them support and affection and a sense of family. “Send us your broken toys, and we’ll fix them for you,” Riccio says.
In return, they give him their pledge to do whatever it takes to further the cause of the white race. They tattoo themselves; they cut off their hair, which is a symbol Riccio says, of removing the “defecation that our Zionist society” has placed upon their heads. They listen to white supremacist punk music, they drink beer. Lots of beer.
Producer/director Shari Cookson was obviously given remarkable access to Aryan National Front rallies – few people show up, and those who do are already converted – and even to a joint ANF and Ku Klux Klan rally. Besides being a skinhead, Riccio is also a Klansman, and gets the honor of lighting the cross.
Filmed over a two-month period last summer, Skinheads ends with Riccio arrested again on federal weapons charges. His compound has been raided by government agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, possibly tuning up for its assault on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco earlier this year.
This leaves the Aryan National Front a rudderless ship, manned by kids, “We need to act more militant!” shouts one of Riccio’s followers after the arrest. “I’m not talking about walking down the street waving flags, I’m talking about going down the streets with guns, and kicking some ass.”
If you wondered how three typical teen-agers could become skinheads and murder a black man for no reason – as three local skinheads did on June 7, 1991, to Donald Thomas – Skinheads goes a long way toward explaining it.
A warning though: You won’t like the answer.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Transcribed By: S Cookson