Tom and John Metzger. "I got hit in school because I was Tom Metzger’s son and ... that hurts, you know, it hurts you."
On Tuesday, November 1, he came bounding out of the old blue-and-white van in blue jeans and a sweat shirt. He smiled. Pumped my hand. Ushered me to a seat on the patio of the small Mexican restaurant on old Highway 395 where we had agreed to meet.
Gerarldo Rivera talk show taping, Nov. 3, 1988, John put San Diego in the national news. Metzger called Roy Innis, chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, an “Uncle Tom.”
He is handsome — square jaw, even features, blond hair brushed in the blunt, semi-pointy cut preferred by surfers. And his voice carries a pronounced Southern California quality as well: slightly nasal, issued from the back of the throat. He is composed. He smiles readily. Laughs. A smooth and accomplished performer for a young man twenty years old.
"I had a Charlie Brown face a little bit like my dad — kids used to call me ‘Grandpa’ because I had such white hair."
I handed him half of the hundred dollars he had requested as his “interview fee,” and he settled back, fiddled with his sterling silver “Viking” ring (“An ancient symbol of our heritage”), and started to talk. I wanted to hear about his childhood.
The Metzger family at Klan picnic, 1979. "The majority of our family’s time was with the movement, or the Klan."
“Going way back, when I was five or six — I had a Charlie Brown face a little bit like my dad — kids used to call me ‘Grandpa’ because I had such white hair. When I first started school, I went to the Catholic school on the Pala Indian Reservation. There were maybe a dozen white kids among the Indians and Mexicans. We liked each other, got along. I don’t remember my father saying not to play with them. This was before he was racial, this was about a year before he got involved in the race question. He knew the difference, though. We didn’t want to get too close — we never brought them over to the house. But whenever there was a festival or anything, we’d all work together like one big happy family.
Celebrating John's graduation from high school. "When I went into high school, that was really scary."
‘‘I never had any problems at the school because I was white. As a matter of fact, my experience at Pala helped me out later when I was in high school and I was well known because of my father. I was able to survive without too many incidents because I grew up with a lot of the Indians and Mexicans, and they remembered me. I didn’t like them because they picked on a lot of whites. But they pretty much left me alone. It was a weird twist.
White Aryan Resistance stickers. "We had problems on our street with Mexicans."
"But that was back then, when I was seven. My father was in the Crusaders, a national organization that was pretty powerful in San Diego, which was part Christian Identity. It’s a church which espouses the doctrine that whites are the chosen people and that no one else fits into the agenda. It was a street-action-oriented church, somewhat related to what Reverend [Dorman] Owens did with abortion. They were religious, but they were out there in the streets. They were anti-Catholic. They would boycott and try to drum up controversy, do rallies. My earliest memory was standing with my father, holding posters which were sometimes rather passionate, saying things like, ‘Boycott Jewish-owned Stores.’
John elected president of White Student's Union
"I remember having problems, especially when people would stop when our signs had words like ‘Jew’ or ‘Negro’ on them.... When people would stop their cars to yell at us, I’d get a little concerned, especially when there was some guy yelling face to face with my father. Of course, most of this stuff didn’t make as much sense to me as it does now.... Back then the feeling was just fear — there’s some guy talking loud to my father. But I understood why we went to these demonstrations — we believed that white people were the chosen people. It wasn’t politics, it was strictly religion. However, in church, when we said ‘man’ in a sermon, we meant ‘white man.’ A lot of the people who came to the church were older people — senior citizens. At that time, my father was preaching as an Identity minister in San Diego.
"When I was a child confronted with non-whites, I think the only attitude I had was that I just didn’t care to be around them. I mean, if a [non-white] guy’s in front of me in a Thrifty Mart, I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it, I wouldn’t say anything. I never went around saying —and I never have— I hate people....If someone’s different, I know it. After a while, it doesn’t faze me anymore. I don’t need to keep reassuring myself they’re different — I know they’re different.... When I was a little kid, I knew that I was different, but I never made a big deal out of it. As a matter of fact, I played with a few of ‘them’ on my street when I was a little kid. But back then, way back then, this was back a few years before I got in the Klan, I was probably six or seven. My dad, he actually kind of had, well, still had friends that were non-white, so to speak. But he was losing more and more contact with them the more and more racial he got. In the sense that they didn’t like him ’cause of his attitude, plus he was moving away from them because obviously for people in the Klan to have Mexican or black — non-white friends — it’s kind of a hypocrisy.
"We lived in a lower-middle-class neighborhood in Fallbrook. At that time, when I was small, we were actually slipping from lower-middle-class — small-business-owner class — to upper-working-class, I guess you could say. We weren’t very poor. I had the work ethic instilled in me — from seventh grade on, I bought every article of clothes I ever had from money I made helping my dad. My father always invested whatever money he had left over in whatever he believed in. He wasn’t materialistic. For as long as I’ve known him, he’s been the kind of guy who’ll wear the same clothes for years. As long as household things worked, we’d use them — saved the money and used it on something else. He was very generous. I learned from that. I saw the passion that drove my dad to give up so much.
My most dramatic memories start when I was about eight. My father used to emphasize half-race and half-religion, which was basically a white racial attitude. Then he started striving more and more to move away from sermons toward action. That’s when he got involved in the Klan — back in 75 and 76 era.
"I remember a lot of Marines in the rallies and functions we attended. I remember the first incident that my father got into that hit the San Diego press really big was the case of the two Marines who got thrown off Camp Pendleton for being in the Klan. I remember on TV, a lot of TV crews coming over to the house.
"I learned about the Klan by being at a lot of the socials and meetings. But I think that the only thing that I really registered as a kid was the cross lightings. Now, that was fire — it was impressive. That was really neat. It was the finale. I always looked forward to going to these rallies because of it.... It’s a symbol. And when you see the camaraderie, you see all your friends, and everybody having a real good time — it was a real big social event. It was beautiful. As a kid, I was always mesmerized by it. When I saw the burning cross, it was neat. It would bring tears out of my eyes. It happens even now when I go to a cross lighting — it’s not tears of crying. It’s just so neat.
"I was in the Klan Youth Corps when I was ten. We took on a few responsibilities, like distributing literature, talking to kids. It was like going to Sunday school, though, you sort of did it because your parents told you to. At that time, only ten percent of me really felt it. When I was about ten, my father became actively involved in the Klan. From then on, the majority of our family’s time was with the movement, or the Klan. Just like it is now. But now we’re even more involved. Extreme hours, you lose sleep, you know, just your whole cycle in life is screwed up. Because you give so much. It’s just like an actor or a musician when you really get on the road. It’s the same thing.
"Every once in a while, my dad would use the words ‘nigger’ or ‘kike.’ But he didn’t make a fetish out of it. It was something he did when he got mad, when someone did him wrong. Just when he was really emotional, with a lot of work going on and stuff and someone did him wrong. He always had a reason. I mean, he never said, like, ‘Hey, he was a Mexican’ or a ‘beaner’ or ‘He was a nigger.’ It wasn’t in the sense that they got a job he thought he could have got. But when, for example, some guy not caring and bumping into a lady and not even picking up the groceries after and Dad saw it, he’d say, ‘Oh, stupid nigger’ or something like that. Just like a lot of people do....
"But now when we use those words, it’s not down-grading them. I don’t say it because I feel better; but I say it every once in a while because, to me, I don’t make a big deal out of words. I don’t prefer, I don’t care if someone calls me a ‘honky’ or a ‘peckerhead.’... I’m just relaying my feelings to everybody else, the way they should react. For example, we people in the movement have a name for white people who aren’t involved. We call them ‘zombies.’
"Back to when I was young, we discussed race, but when it came to discussing sex at home, I think that was maybe like pulling out a wisdom tooth. My father told me. My mother told the girls when it came to sex. I was pretty young then, maybe twelve or thirteen at the time. It was very hard for him to say, and I think that’s the only time I’ve ever seen my father blush really. He had to go into more detail than he thought he was going to have to. I didn’t stump him on any questions or anything.
“When it came to the question of premarital sex, I was told, ‘Be responsible.’ I personally don’t go for that. But I see values in it. I draw most of my values from little bits and pieces from a lotta different experiences: Christianity, Catholicism, and uh ... and race. I truly believe that I am a free-thinker.
“I believe in nature, and I like watching the animals and how they react. They don’t have a ritual to get married. It’s just natural to reproduce, and if you want to talk about fooling around and just jumping into other people’s beds, the animals are doing it all the time. So that’s why I don’t cling to this ‘don’t do anything with sex until you get married…’
“However, we in the movement just figure that homosexuality is not natural. I don’t see a male dog and a male dog go at it, so obviously it’s a part of a degenerate, a degenerate part of a culture. People should have rights, but I think homosexuals should have their area and be with themselves, and if they want to have goods to sell, that’s fine. Just kinda like a nation.
“There are, however, gay racists. They’re an extremely small minority. And they don’t like for people to know. Oddly enough, I’ve seen a couple of ’em come out of the National Socialist camp, which, to me, makes no sense. The majority of professed homosexuals who I’ve seen come from the National Socialist camp. I think a lot of them are drawn by the power, the masculinity, the great speaker, and all that stuff. They like being with something strong. But there’s only, very few that I know. I don’t have anything to do with them.
“As I got older, I knew that I was different from other people, so I knew girlfriends would have to be unmistakably white. So I never had a problem, I never felt an urge to go out with a non-white. But if I see a nonwhite girl who’s really pretty — it’s only natural, if she’s beautiful, I can’t deny that. But I had rules when it came to that point: I knew we were different, and I knew it would never work, and I never wanted it to work in any case.... I knew they were beautiful.... I’d say, ‘Wow! She’s really nice!’... A lot of Mexicans are really nice looking. As a matter of fact, when I went through high school, a lot of Mexican girls wanted to go out with me. They seemed to be attracted towards blondhaired guys. I was flattered, you know, when they’d come on to me, but I never worked from there.
My adolescence. That is when I permanently decided I would get involved.... When I was twelve years old, that’s when my father ran for Congress. Openly. Now he’d gone through the Klan for about four years. In 1980. He was, I guess, right in the middle of the campaign. At some point, he changed his organization’s name to WAPA — White American Political Association — and he took that from a Mexican-American group called MAPA. But he just used the word white on it. The press labeled him as a Klan leader, which, you know, you’re not gonna change. They gotta have a headline. There was so much publicity — for me it was just like any person that gets well known. You get death threats, you get problems at school. You get teachers who make snide remarks about you, make you look like an ass in school. When it affected my family! I got hit in school because I was Tom Metzger’s son and ... that hurts, you know, it hurts you. It wasn’t right.
“I said to myself, ‘Is it fair to go and knock some black guy on his ass because I just felt bad that day?’ I have to be open-minded about this. I’ve never wanted to be a hypocrite. Never believed in it. And so I just draw my values on experiences. I never liked being hit because someone didn’t like who I was, so I don’t go around doing it to other people. I don’t like being stolen from, so I don’t steal. It’s a ‘do unto others’ sort of thing.
“When I got beat up at school because of who I was... I got beat up probably about a dozen times from junior to high school. Mainly by white kids, because Fallbrook’s mainly white — a lot of them hung out with some of the Mexican gangs. If someone didn’t like me, they’d say, ‘Hey, this guy said something about your girlfriend,’ and it sorta went from there.
“But when I went into high school, that was really scary, ’cause you got really big kids, I mean, back at Potter Junior High, they may have been only a year older. In ninth grade, then you see kids that are big. You see football players... And the first fight I had, I was just surrounded, and a guy come up, and all of a sudden I was surrounded by all these guys not gonna let me out of the circle. And this guy was about my size, but he was pretty stocky. I didn’t think I could beat him. I didn’t try to weasel out. In any case, he got one good slug, and I was... right in the jaw. Which cut my jaw a little bit or my lip inside, and then I, I didn’t fall down or anything. I just took it. It was a part of me that just said Take it, get out of the way.’ So I took it, and then I just looked back at him and stared him in his face. And that just made him crazy, he just walked off. You know, I didn’t fight cuz I just didn’t want to. I didn’t know what was gonna happen, I’d be really bounced up, so I just took the hit. Several other times, I was involved in skirmishes, fights, and threats, and I laughed at them all... five guys gonna beat you up, I just don’t know.... What made me get through high school is that they all thought I was crazy after a while, but I’d just say, ‘You guys make a big deal out of fighting, it’s fine…’
“From tenth grade on was when I became active in the White Student Union. Before that, I was just branded the same as my father. It’s like my father shrunk down to me and went to school. I obviously had the same attitudes. I was doing all the interviews, just like my father.
When I became a sophomore, I got involved in history, ’cause I love challenging history, no matter what it is. And I am often challenging people in our movement that have history. ’Cause I know how history can get bent out of shape. The special-interest groups that push for so much room in textbooks. Since I went into ninth grade, I would go with a whole stack of books. Especially on the Holocaust. That was my first angle. My father would say something, and I would see these books, and I’d think, ‘Yeah, that doesn’t make sense.’ So I’d question them. I just wanted to see how my teachers reacted. So I went to my ninth grade, the first couple of days, when they got onto World War II, and started going really into it and the Holocaust. They spent a couple of weeks on that alone, I just brought a whole bunch of ‘revisionist books,’ they call them. I didn’t know any Jews anyway. And never saw one with the little hair emblem on. And so, back in ninth grade, I just went crash with the revisionist books right on my teacher’s desk, and then I went to the principal, and said, ‘I don’t believe this!’ Crash with the school’s textbooks. ‘You take me outta this. They show movies that I just don’t care for personally.’ I mean, ones about Auschwitz. And a lot of that’s depressing. World war sucks. And on top of that I didn’t believe in that at all, or hardly. So I did that and talked to the principal, and they put me in a library to do a couple reports for a couple of weeks while they studied the Holocaust. Then they brought me back in....
“Tenth grade I was always arguing. They’d tell me to shut up, you know. Sometimes I — you know, in history class, kids are so bored in history class — a lot of them, that’s the least thing they can think about anyway. But I was truly wanting to see, ‘Did this teacher know?' And I loved the way they would react. I’d ask, ‘How do you know that six million were killed?’ They’d say, ‘What do you mean, how could you even question that?’ They’d just fly off the handle. And if I ever asked my dad, ‘How do you know all races should be separate?’ And when he went off on me like that, I’d get pissed at him. I just never believed someone should never question things.
“I’ve seen pictures in the historical books that show a group of naked men starving, Jews, just about to be, you know, with the pipes in the background and gas coming up. Then I’ve seen the same picture with a whole bunch of bodies in front of them. So I knew we had the technology to fake things. And I always questioned that. I always doubted history, ever since I saw how you can doctor things. And I’ve seen, like one little famous thing they have in a lot of historical books is a little child, his hands up, and he was with a Nazi guard pushing everybody. And they’d say, ‘just catching Jews, getting ready to exterminate ’em.’ But then I saw in a historical book that that child was actually caught for stealing a loaf of bread.
“Even in the movement, I disagree with some people. One thing about the Holocaust, the Jewish so-called Holocaust, some guys say it never happened. But then again, they’re so easily led to say, ‘We had twenty million White Russians die in the Ukraine.’ Now I know a lot of people died, when they starved out a lot of the farmers and stuff in the Ukraine. But I’m not so quick to start jumping to figures. Because that’s another lesson that I learned, and I wanted to be free-thinking about it. It would be easy for them to say, ‘Yeah, they hurt white people. That’s terrible. Twenty million. Thirty million.’ All of a sudden fifty million; it gets blown out of proportion.... I am sure it happened. There were sure a lot of Jews who were killed because of being Jewish. But I never believed in the six-million theory.
“From the time I was about eight to fourteen, I played baseball, I made All-Stars twice. I was a pitcher, I was first baseman. I had just a natural aptitude, which was pretty good when I was a pitcher.... Three out of my seven years I made All-Stars, which is not easy. Then when I got into high school, I had to drop baseball, even though I loved it because I found out I was a working guy, and I ultimately knew I didn’t want to have baseball as a profession. I loved it as a sport, but I didn’t have the time like a lot of kids. Fallbrook’s a pretty middle-class area. Upper-middle-class. I was working with my father. Plus, I just didn’t have time.
“I was getting involved with the White Student Union ... at this point, I was really getting into it. When I was twelve and thirteen, I started understanding death threats. I was scared. We had problems on our street with Mexicans. We were on the news all the time. They’d get drunk and bring all their friends over and throw bottles at the window, and we’d have to confront them. You were always afraid. You’d stay up nights not sleeping, scared. See your mom cry, dad cry — my mother out of fear, my dad crying sometimes because of losing close friends, because of their convictions. Anyway, I’ve seen my dad cry over things like that. I never liked to see my father crying. That hurt me, ’cause I’ve rarely seen him cry like that.
‘‘I cry continually to let a lot of stress out. I force myself to cry. Like this week, I’ve just got so many things going on. Like just yesterday, I just sit down, spend all day by myself. Just every once in a while. It may sound funny, but I just, when I cry, you lose a lot of that stress, and you feel really good.... But I don’t get violent like some people do or go on a drinking binge. I don’t cry for long. I just let the tears go for five, ten minutes, and take it from there.
“I’ve cried because of wishing things were different. Not in the sense of I wish I was different, but I wish a friend didn’t get killed. I wish my father didn’t cry in front of me. I wish we wouldn’t have any problems. And things like that. Anyway, I cry every once in a while. A lot of it’s just stress. Other times, I was disappointed, maybe a little negative or down or depressed about the state of the world. But it was for that short minute, and I’d just pick myself up and say ‘Listen, are you just going to cry and not do anything? Look at all these candidates who spend all their lifetime — Dukakis and Bush — in front of cameras, and they lose. Some of them know they’re gonna lose before they even start. Think of all the tears that come out of that!’
“One thing that can depress me — I get more and more disturbed the more I see it — is a racially mixed couple. A while ago, I’d wish it wasn’t there, but I get really disturbed now. And I say things. I tell them what I think about that. I don’t confront them to where I wanna hit ’em, like some of my friends do. But I... can’t hold my feelings back. Now I just say, I think, I think it sucks…. And I tell the white partner. You’d think you’d do it to the black partner, but it’d be the white person who was misinformed. Actually, the black is misinformed, too, in my eyes. They shouldn’t come over to our culture ’cause they’re losing all their, you know, ancestral traits, something that’s been pure for thousands of years.
I’ll eat any ethnic food. I don’t, uh, some of my friends that are in Identity don’t eat pork and don’t eat, uh ... well, they call it ‘swine’s flesh.’ It’s a part of their religion. Their position on food is exactly from the Jews. It’s exactly an identity. It’s a bizarre religion. I’ll eat anything in front of them. I’ll say, ‘But this tastes good!' I’ll say, ‘I can cuss in front of your God, and he won’t zap me!’ I’ll make fun of them. Just tease them.
‘‘I like good ole rock and roll. And I’ll listen to black music, if I turn it on and it happens to be on the radio. Some of it is neat. Some of ’em ... are really... a neat beat. I don’t buy the records. And I don’t turn on a station just to listen to that. Some black women that are, like, on the same level as Madonna are really good. It doesn’t really matter to me, as long as it’s got a good beat. But then, when I learn things about the certain singers like Sting, of the Police, who offers all this money to things against apartheid — that’s a whole different subject in my eyes, ’cause I disagree with apartheid, too, on a different level from them. Then I would throw their records away.
‘‘A lot of the stuff we publish in our Aryan Youth Movement newsletter is not coming from my mouth. It’s a mix of other opinions. I don’t cater to people, but there is a strain of... of... sometimes a little bit of giving in to friends. I don’t like the word ‘inferior.’ And I don’t mean to skate around the issue. I’ve looked in history books. I’ve done research. Majority of the stuff I’ve seen has seemed to come out of, I mean the great things have come out of white civilization. I think most people do realize that but just think they’re gonna be racist if they say it....
“I think that, well, we have two different cultures, and whatever they do is superior in theirs, and whatever we do is superior in ours. I think they’re inferior not in the sense that, see, they haven’t accomplished what we have, but we have a different lifestyle, and what I perceive as great may be bad to you. So I don’t think they’re inferior on that level. But our culture seems to — every culture does that — think ours is better. And it could be that even the aborigines say it. I do think we’re better as a whole. But I’m not dumb enough to say that none of us is bad. So I guess ultimately I do think they’re inferior, but on a different level. They haven’t lived up to my standards.
“I don’t mean they’re not human in the same way, but just different. You’re different. I’m different. On the average, most of the nice-looking, so-called blacks — Miss America, Miss Universe, Miss Whatever — are almost all white, a lot of them. Vanessa Williams.... One time I started thinking about them, and I said, ‘C’mon, John, are they inferior or what?’
‘‘Really, I just revert back to good ole nature. I don’t see cats and dogs cross-breeding. I think you could have a better civilization by, everyone who’s in it is almost exactly the same. I believe you could have a better situation. It’s a natural feeling. I think the only thingthat’s important is — I always refer back to nature, I don’t see cats and dogs, elephants and mice getting it on.
‘‘....I know that I may change. I can’t be dumb enough to say I may be doing this till the day I die. People do change. I’ve seen that. I’ve seen people who’ve come down on homosexuals and blacks being caught, uh, they have homosexual tendencies, they have a past marriage with a non-white. I’ve seen a few of those. I think it is a reaction — self-hatred, somehow.
“But I believe that I will always be, will have the convictions on things that I know. Very upfront facts. Not history. But I know I always have a lot of room to change, and I always allow myself that. And if everybody around me decided to quit, I don’t think it would make me change my opinions. I could change. I can get really hard. I could get much more involved ... or just be by myself and not be involved at all.... See what’s so unique is that a lot of the people, sometimes people actually, like, I was with a man for about four hours the other day, he was interviewing me for [the University of] Michigan. He’s a psychologist, and the guy is just trying to nail me. I’m such a ball of unknowns, he just wants to sum it up. Everybody just has to have an answer. I think sometimes we are ultimately looking for the answer.
When I did Donahue and Oprah Winfrey, out of those two shows, I received about a thousand letters after each show. I responded to them all within a month. I’ve had people send me 500 bucks, 200 bucks. People find out that they like me and that they believe in me, and I send them letters saying, like, ‘We need so much money for a laser printer.’ I have so many contacts now, about a thousand different people that would drop ten, twenty bucks if I told them to. So that’s one way we get donations, by asking. I’ve been able to generate in the last four years, I’ve been really active.... If I continue at the present rate I am now; I’ll eclipse my dad — I work for my dad, basically — I have more influence around the nation than my dad has around San Diego, I believe. I think we’re equal. I don’t do a lot in San Diego, and he does, I do a lot more syndicated shows. See, they like me because I’m young. They’re always dwelling on me. Like a lot of them say, ‘You’re articulate, you’re nice looking,’ — I like our movement being portrayed that way, because a lot of us are just normal people. So these talk-show guys always dwell on me more than my father.
“Now I’m most active in the Aryan Youth Movement. What we consider Aryans may differ a lot from historians, and it may even be wrong, but we classified it as mainly European whites. Around the European areas. There are certain Aryans down in Italy. You’ve got your north part of Italy that is mainly white, and you’ve got your south part that’s — it’s not really just skin color. It’s physical traits, too. Obviously, people have different thicknesses of hair. You know a lot of Aryans, as we call them, have straight hair. We just figure that they are the best of our people. We have a white Armenian involved, he puts on our shows. He has a little olive skin, but I personally wish, I wish either he was a little whiter — uh, he’s not a non-white, by all means, but....
“There are also a few Italians. Like I said, the north part of Italy is near Germany and Europe, so a lot of them are inundated with white blood. For certain guys, you just have to look at their parents, look at them. It’s a very shady area, and I hate it. I just hate it. I don’t like saying, ‘You can’t join up, you can’t.’ I’ve broke up, literally, there have been groups involved that would have a person that does not fit my standards. I would say, ‘Out of all due respect, I can’t... I can associate with you, you’re a great person, but I’m not gonna bring new people in and say, “This group is Class A Aryans.”’
“I’m in between girlfriends right now. The girl I just broke up with wasn’t political. But that didn’t break us up. It was two-fold. For one thing, I didn't have a lot of time, and a lot of women demand a lot of attention from a guy. I demanded a lot of — not work, but I needed help sometimes. She believed, and she would never marry a black man. People thought of us as sister and brother. I was from the same stock, the same basic Aryans as she was — a lot of German and Irish. Actually, she had everything I did. I went out with her for two years. I think it was the stress. She just didn’t come from a middle-class family. She never lived life having to put up with anything. Silver spoon in her mouth, so to speak. I think now she’s getting a little taste of what life is like, because she doesn’t have any aid to go to college, her parents aren’t supporting her.... I don’t want to say it’s a revenge on my part, but I’m glad to see her going through shit. To at least see a little bit what my life was like.
“Right now, I don’t have too much time for dating. If I did, it would have to be someone in the movement who’s actively working, which, there are a lot of them, a few of them.... About a third in our movement is female. Which is amazing for any group to be actively involved.
“Ultimately, on my father’s side — we came out of Germany. My mom’s a lot of German, too, so I’d say about sixty-percent German, about thirty-percent Irish, ten-percent Swedish. Out of the six children in the family, I’m the one who’s most extremely involved in the movement. Next would be my oldest sister Carolyn, who’s twenty-four. My other sister Lynn has the feelings, but she’s a working girl — she wants to get out there and prove that she’s a good working woman. She’s racial, just like we are, but to me, there’s a difference between believing it and doing it.
“When my sister Dorraine got married, she became very anti... well, see we all grew up with a religious background, although I never really cared for religion. It just didn’t make sense to me. But Dorraine met up with a born-again Christian, which is something I can’t understand. She became religious, and suddenly it wasn’t race anymore. She wouldn’t discuss it. You never hear it anymore out of her now, but she still has the basic feeling — you don’t mix, but beyond that, I think that in her Christian atmosphere — her husband is very religious — she never discusses race.
“Growing up, to be honest, I was probably closest to my dad. We did so much together — working, rallies, et cetera. It wasn’t that I neglected my mom — she always had her hands full with the kids and all the other stuff going on. It was rough. Now that I’m older I’m making an effort to be a little more demonstrative. I try give my mom a little more huggin’ and kissin’.”
The tape recorder clicks off. John rises from his seat, raises his arms, and stretches his compact wrestler’s build. He is, he says, leaving the next morning for New York to tape an episode of a “nationally syndicated talk show.’’ He says he can’t divulge more — “security reasons.’’ I pay him the remaining fifty dollars of his “interview fee.” He smiles, says good-bye, and dutifully totes our two chairs back inside the restaurant.
Less than two days later, John put San Diego in the national news. During a taping of Geraldo Rivera’s talk show in New York, Metzger called Roy Innis, chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, an “Uncle Tom.” Innis responded by placing his large hands around John’s neck and, while squeezing, lifted the young man from his seat. The dozen or so white supremacist “skinheads” who had accompanied Metzger to the taping rushed the stage. Chairs were thrown. Fists flew. Rivera’s nose was broken, and Metzger made the lead story on that evening’s eleven o’clock television news in San Diego.
John Metzger has since claimed that he was “set up” by Rivera for the brawl; he and Innis had, however, exchanged harsh words before, though never punches, during several previous tapings of the Morton Downey Jr. Show. And in February of this year, a skinhead from the San Fernando Valley, who flew to Chicago with Metzger to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show, was ejected from the studio after calling a black woman in the audience a monkey.
John has returned to San Diego, to his family, and to his a job as an electrician — a job he worries about because his political activity often requires that he leave town.
That Thursday evening, while watching him on the twenty-second clip of the Geraldo show, while listening to him bark out the words “Uncle Tom,” I thought of him crying — sitting on the edge of his bed, sobbing. Tears coursing down his smooth, clear skin. Falling to the rug.