UT Law Student’s Novel on Race Sparks Debate

JC Reindl, Toledo Blade, March 13, 2011

Law student Kyle Bristow spent last summer living and working in Toledo, {snip} at Lucas County Family Court Center, assisting low-income residents with their child-custody and divorce cases. He said he found the work fulfilling. A large number of clients were black and Hispanic.

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But when he wasn’t helping minority families, Mr. Bristow was writing a self-published novel that a national civil rights group deemed racist and “hate fiction.” It classified the novel as in the same genre as The Turner Diaries, a fantasy said to have inspired domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh, the 1995 Oklahoma City bomber.

Mr. Bristow’s thriller, White Apocalypse, is set in northwest Ohio. He says it was inspired by his research into the Solutrean Hypothesis–a fringe theory of archaeology that suggests European settlers crossed a frozen Atlantic Ocean and beat the ancestors of present-day Native Americans by several thousand years. In Mr. Bristow’s telling, these white settlers were massacred by the darker race that arrived later.

His book, which is dedicated to “the real Native Americans,” appeared last fall and was embraced by some admirers as a necessary white power book: “This evidence could be the jolt whites need to awaken from our suicidal slumber,” one reviewer wrote for the book’s dust jacket.

The Southern Poverty Law Center of Montgomery, Ala., says the book, though fiction, really depicts the assassination of two of its staff members–a claim Mr. Bristow denies. {snip}

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A polarizing figure

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At 19, Mr. Bristow was elected chairman of MSU’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter, a conservative group started in 1960 under the aegis of William F. Buckley, Jr. Mr. Bristow transformed the chapter into a lightning rod for controversy.

The chapter took some traditional conservative stances, such as opposing gay rights and amnesty for illegal immigrants. It invited mainstream conservative speakers to campus, including former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo. But the group also invited Nick Griffin, a British politician and Holocaust denier who has been accused of inciting racial hatred.

Left-wing campus groups held protests against both the Young Americans for Freedom chapter and its most controversial speakers. Agitators pulled fire alarms to disrupt some events. Mr. Bristow said he was kicked and spat upon by protesters and that other chapter members’ vehicle tires were slashed.

Under Mr. Bristow, the group planned “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day,” members said, to raise awareness of immigration, though it was canceled. The group held a “Koran desecration contest” and organized a “straight power” rally outside Lansing City Hall to protest an anti-discrimination ordinance that would protect gays and lesbians. The ordinance passed.

Mr. Bristow wrote a press release for the city hall protest: “YAF members find homosexuality and other forms of sexual deviancy to be disgusting. The Boy Scouts, military, and the American public need to be protected from these degenerates.”

‘Hate group’ label

In 2007, the spring of Mr. Bristow’s sophomore year, the Southern Poverty Law Center designated his Young Americans for Freedom chapter as one of 800 “hate groups” in the nation. {snip}

Compared to the activism of his college years, Mr. Bristow has all but gone underground at UT’s law school.

Brad Levine, a friend and classmate, said Mr. Bristow is generally recognized on the law campus as being conservative, but he doesn’t press his viewpoints. If he does stand out, it is for being very serious about his studies.

“His classroom demeanor is quite quiet. You hardly notice he’s there half the time,” he said. “I’ve never seen him go out of his way to push any political beliefs on anybody.”

Mr. Levine, 29, is Jewish and considers his own political views liberal, “and yet I’ve had no problem at all befriending Kyle,” he said.

Political heroes

{snip} In person, the polite and demure student discussed his political heroes: Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul, and Barry Goldwater. He traced the development of his self-described conservative philosophy to his teenage years as a shy bookworm. He said his turning point came when reading noted conservative Ann Coulter’s Treason :Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism.

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Just ripples now

Mr. Bristow said the rigors of law school have kept him too busy to get involved in activism at UT. But there have been a few ripples.

In April, the online “legal tabloid” Above the Law published two detailed blog posts about how Mr. Bristow’s past at MSU raised concerns among classmates. The site said it was tipped off by UT law students, it did not name, who complained about his past.

The blog post said students became alarmed by writings on Mr. Bristow’s Facebook profile, including a status update that said he was rooting for Duke in the NCAA tournament because it was the “last white basketball team.”

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Mr. Bristow downplayed the controversy and blamed it on a couple of left-wing students trying to discredit conservatives. He also accused the blog posts’ author, Elie Mystal, of having “a history of going after conservatives who are trying to become part of the legal profession.”

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Controversial exit

Mr. Bristow’s exit from his chairmanship of Young Americans for Freedom was a matter a controversy. He said he resigned near the end of his junior year because he needed to study for the Law School Admission Test. But current and past directors of the national organization say Mr. Bristow was forced out.

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Mr. Bristow said the Young Americans for Freedom claims are lies.

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The book

The plot of White Apocalypse revolves around the fictional discovery of a mass grave of very early white settlers that would prove the Solutrean Hypothesis. Native Americans and liberal activists make every effort in the story to bury the evidence.

The narrator in the novel describes how one character’s ancestors “for 40,000 years were all white and he hated who he was so very much that he put an end to that tradition by becoming romantically involved with a nonwhite individual–as many white liberals are predisposed to doing these days.”

The book includes a graphic assassination scene outside a Toledo courthouse.

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“Our security was much more worried about this, simply for the reason it was in the form of a book. That is the kind of thing that sits on a white supremacist’s shelf for years,” Mr. Potok said.

Mr. Bristow said neither Mr. Potok nor the law center is depicted, and all the characters are made up. “I’ve never even met the man, but he sure has a lot to say about me,” Mr. Bristow said. “I think he’s grown an obsession with me that’s kind of creepy.”

Mr. Potok said he was more shocked by the novel’s dust jacket than its story. Nearly a dozen individuals and public figures, including two college professors, heaped praise.

Other feedback

One contributor, James Edwards, an author and Memphis-based radio host, called the book “glowing with white pride and sorely needed these days, for European Americans are subjected to nonstop insult, abuse, and bashing.”

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As for the Solutrean Hypothesis, a small minority of researchers believe some European settlements in the eastern half of North America could have preceded the migration from Asia across the Bering Strait land bridge roughly 12,000 years ago.

Dennis Stanford, anthropologist and a curator at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, said there are a handful of archaeology sites on the East Coast that he believes show evidence of early Europeans. One possible reason for the settlers’ disappearance was “an absorption and reallocation of genes” when they met and mated with the ancestors of present-day Native Americans.

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