On a sunny day in February, Derek Black arrives at a chain restaurant in West Palm Beach, Florida, looking like he's just stepped out of a Walker Evans photograph. Beneath a broad-brimmed black leather hat, he's gaunt and pale with shoulder-length red hair, knoblike cheekbones, and pond-water-colored eyes. After an awkward greetingI explain that I have the flu, so we don't shake handsBlack, 20, sits down and in a folksy drawl begins discussing the eventful childhood he's barely out of. There's the HBO documentary, Hate.com, that he appeared in when he was 12; the USA Today article the next year that cast him as halfHuck Finn, half-Damien ("he carries around an encyclopedic knowledge of frogs, snakes, fish, and the Web. . . . Yet the thing that makes his father proudest is that Derek runs a Web site for kidspromoting white supremacy and racial hate"); the bomb threats made against his home. Now Black's in the news again, because he's been denied the seat he won last August on the Palm Beach County Republican Executive Committee.
In racist circles the election imbroglio was a hot topic: David Duke flew to Florida and lent his support and, later, at a conference of white nationalists in Memphis, enthusiastically endorsed Black as the face of the next generation of race hate in America. "We're so privileged to be in your presence here, Derek," he gushed, and predicted that Black would have "a much more extensive national and international career than I've had."
Black removes his hat, which looks like the sort of gear one might wear on horseback while herding minorities out of the country. He describes growing up in a predominantly Hispanic and Jewish neighborhood a few miles away. "Most people don't live in nearly as racially diverse a place as I do," he says. "I think it gives me some legitimacy when I speak about our multiracial society." He comes from celebrated white-supremacist stock: His father is an ex-member of the White Youth Alliance and a former national Grand Wizard of the KKK who worked on David Duke's campaigns in Louisiana and who todaywith his sonruns the leading white-nationalist website, Stormfront.org; his mother is Duke's ex-wife. From the age of 10, Black would accompany his father to meetings.
Black's speech patterns are strangely similar to Jimmy Stewart's: grandfatherly, emphatic, and singsong. He was homeschooled and still lives with his mother and father. He reads fantasy novels like Twilight and is semi-obsessed with Taylor Swift. ("She is the greatest country musician on the radio today," he says.) He's more comfortable talking about ideology than pop culture, though, especially as it relates to recent political changes. "He's a big marker," Black says of the new president. "I don't expect in four years to be living in a wasteland of burning tires and homeless people, but for me Obama is one step away."