Former Hate Music Promoter George Burdi Discusses His Experiences with Racism and the White Power Music Industry
BURDI: I wasn't the type of person to make a scene. I didn't dress shockingly or wear swastikas or try to upset people. I was more into writing letters and reading books. You will never find one person saying I called them a name or was rude to them or punched them in the nose.
Even so, I was recognized all the time. People thought I was evil, but I was still a celebrity. People would come and shake my hand and I'd think I had a recruit here. Then they would tell me, "I totally disagree with your views." I'd wonder, "Well, why are you shaking my hand and smiling like you are so happy to meet me?" TV has a strange effect on people. But no one ever started a fight with me.
In fact, just the opposite. I remember a two-hour live interview I gave to an all-black radio station in Detroit. After about an hour, the ratings were going through the roof. Television news crews came down to broadcast our interview live on TV. The phone lines were lit up continuously. It was pretty dramatic.
I told this guy how American blacks had it better under segregation, how they could control their communities and education more. The black music and culture was better then. I was really expounding Farrakhan's ideas. I said the reason I'm promoting this is because I want the same thing for white people.
A lot of Farrakhan supporters were phoning in and a lot of black people were really supportive.
IR: How did you come to leave the movement?
BURDI: It started during my time in prison. I had given a speech in 1993, and after the speech some skinheads attacked some of the anti-racists. In 1995, I was convicted of assault [in Canada] for my part in what became a riot. I was sentenced to a year in prison, but I was released on appeal after a month.
That month inside just made me more bitter and served to galvanize my will. For the next two years, I worked harder than ever before.
My conviction was upheld in 1997, and I had to finish my sentence. I was reaching burnout before I even went in. I felt my direction was pretty pointless. All the media exposure was tough on my parents. Things were really rolling, sales were going wild, but it was tough.
I would lay out the magazine until 7 o'clock in the morning and wake up in front of my computer at 10. I didn't have a life.
IR: What happened when you went back into prison?
BURDI: When a week seems like an eternity and you've got months ahead of you, it's easy to sit back and think about your life. I decided I was going to get out of the movement when I left prison.
The three biggest things for my decision were the pain I gave my parents, the futility of my cause, and the judgment of the 12 jurors [in the assault case], who were all whites.
I can't tell you what I did to my parents. My father had worked for 17 years at the same company, and they fired him because of me. My parents finally moved out of Toronto because my father couldn't get a job with me as his son. Every time he would get close to getting a job somewhere, it would fall through. They wouldn't return his calls. My time in jail was just a little bit too much for them to swallow, and I don't know if they will ever fully recover from it.
As for the jury, they convicted me not on the facts of the case [Burdi says he never physically attacked the activist], but because they disagreed with my views. And here I was, supposedly fighting this fight for white people like them. I started thinking that there must be something to their perspective.
When I got out in June of 1997, I started developing new ways of looking at life.
IR: Tell me about that process.
BURDI: I didn't want to think about anything political. I didn't want to think too much at all. I didn't try to reason through the issues and form a counter-argument to each one. Instead, I went soul searching.
I got into fitness and started eating healthy, organic foods. I started to practice fasting and meditation, and I went on a spiritual discovery. When we are children, we study every leaf and flower and insect and animal and every question. I reopened that process for myself. I had a total shift in paradigm.
If I go back to the movement now, and you can be my witness for this, then somebody should lobotomize me.
IR: What did people in the movement say?
BURDI: I visited the Rahowa guitarist. I told him it was futile and that I was leaving.
He said, "You're right, it is futile. But you might as well stay in the movement, it's all you've got."
But I completely separated myself from everyone I had known before. I didn't call Resistance down in Michigan, and they didn't call me. Some people tried every way to contact me, wanting to know if I was all right. I just ignored them all.
Eventually, the letters got fewer and fewer until they just stopped altogether. I have no idea where any of those people are now.
My friends today have only known me since I left the movement. I'm just George to them. As for my parents, every month our relationship is better than the month before.
IR: What's your perspective on "white pride" now?
BURDI: People find meaning for their lives in many different places. Some join Star Trek fan clubs, others join the booster club for their local sports team, and other people become [North American Free Trade Agreement] protesters.
The white power movement was a way for me to find purpose and meaning in my life.
IR: In what sense do you now feel racism is wrong?
BURDI: Racism is wrong because ... I should probably say hatred is wrong, anger is wrong. Hatred and anger are wrong because they consume what is good in you. They smother your ability to appreciate love and peace.
Another reason that racism is wrong is that you attach yourself to the accomplishments of white Europeans, instead of developing yourself and actually contributing to the society you live in.
IR: You didn't mention anything about racism hurting other people.
BURDI: Naturally, because I'm answering the question from a totally different perspective.
Have I spoken out against racism in the politically correct terminology that people would expect me to use? Maybe not. But am I against it? Completely and wholeheartedly. You've got your reasons why it's wrong, and I've got mine.
The biggest problem with racism is that it promotes fear and lack of understanding between communities.
IR: You sang a song called "Third Reich" that includes these lyrics: "You kill all the niggers, and you gas all the Jews; kill a gypsy and a commie, too. You just killed a kike, don't it feel right; goodness gracious, Third Reich." How does that song make you feel today?
BURDI: I didn't write the music or the lyrics for that song, I should say.
The lyrics are incredibly negative, incredibly destructive to everyone mentioned in the song. They do a total disservice to anybody who thinks that the white power movement has any ideals beyond guttural hate.
Frankly, I am quite ashamed that I ever participated in singing those lyrics. It would be impossible for me to make a personal apology to everyone who was ever affected by that song.
But the people who bought it, they wanted to listen to it and probably already had those ideas in their heads.