THE GIRL NEXT DOOR
Brooke Wolff doesn't stand out from all the other blue-eyed, sandy-haired, fair-faced seniors pictured in the 1993 Highlands Ranch High School yearbook. But while other graduates' names are followed by lists of activities--band, color guard, honor roll, swimming--Wolff's stands alone. "My high school is like Beverly Hills 90210--there's cappuccino and frozen yogurt in the lunchroom," she says. "A lot of teenagers don't understand there's a whole world outside Highlands Ranch. They hang out here and are protected from everything--it's really sheltered. And it's almost all white." Meet Wolff, Brooke--Skinheads, Ku Klux Klan. Future career plans? Heading her own den of Klansmen.
The nineteen-year-old is a rising star in Colorado's small KKK cadre, and already one of the country's few visible female Klan representatives. Although Wolff has yet to attend the Klan's national leadership school--she plans to travel to Arkansas this summer for tutoring by national Grand Wizard Thom Robb himself--she's already a successful KKK recruiter. She served as mistress of ceremonies at this January's anti-Martin Luther King Day rally. And she's mastered the Klan's latest line. "We don't hate," Wolff says. "We just love white people. I don't see what's wrong with caring about your own race." Robb started developing that theme back in 1992. "The Klan is not a hate group, but we are a LOVE group," he wrote in a recruitment newsletter. "We are a love group because we LOVE America and we LOVE our people. While we believe that Negroes have a right to black pride, we believe that you as a WHITE person also have the right to have WHITE PRIDE!"
Clearly, Wolff does. "I'm not some redneck with a hayseed sticking out of my mouth," she notes. "We call it `hate with a haircut,'" says Lawrence Jeffries, director of public information for the Center for Democratic Renewal, an Atlanta-based group that monitors Klan activities. "It's evidenced at their rallies--they don't wear robes and they don't say `nigger' or `kike.' Now they're simply referring to themselves as pro-white, pro-America patriots."
"It's like, just because you love your children, it doesn't mean you're going to hate the neighbors' children," Wolff explains. "You're just going to care for your children more."
Wolff wants to marry a Klan member and raise her kids in the Klan community. "It's a very loving environment," she says, and a good atmosphere for families.
"I saw this picture at a daycare center once with a black kid, a white kid and an Oriental kid holding hands around the world--I don't want my kids exposed to crap like that," she adds. "I have no time for people who don't believe as I do."
The Ku Klux Klan is a Christian group and doesn't tolerate drugs, Wolff says. Smoking, however, is apparently fine: She goes through two packs of Marlboro Lights during an interview at a Denver restaurant.
Otherwise, she could be the girl next door--as long as your next-door neighbors wear "No Remorse, White Pride" patches on their sleeves.
Wolff's superiors--Shawn Slater, head of the Colorado KKK, and Grand Wizard Robb--both say the young woman shows plenty of promise. "She's doing an outstanding job for us, especially with young people," says Slater. "She's brought in a lot of her friends. She has great leadership potential--Brooke can go as high in the leadership of the KKK as she wants."
Slater and Wolff have crossed paths before--several years ago, when both were skinheads. Wolff's earlier high school photos are far more revealing than the 1993 model: through sophomore year, her head was shaved.
"My mom thought I was a punk rocker," Wolff remembers. "She kept bringing out baby pictures and saying, `What did you do to your beautiful hair?'"
Robb says the Klan often gets recruits from the ranks of skinheads, as teenagers grow up and realize they want more direction than Doc Martens and White Power music offers. "Like Brooke and others, they don't want to spend their life without a job, dressed like a skinhead or in jail," he explains. "They want something constructive to do, and we give it to them."
Wolff portrays herself as a strong, well-adjusted young woman with few problems and a happy childhood. "I had everything I wanted growing up," she says. Still, she discovered something was missing when she first heard Robb speak at a Klan rally in Aurora in 1992. Afterward, she cornered him to find out what the KKK was all about. "I was really impressed," she remembers. "The Klan is more organized than the skinheads. I like that."
Robb doesn't recall that first meeting with Wolff, but has since come to know her. "She seems bright, she's got a lot of energy, she's not hotheaded," he says. "She seems truly concerned about the future of her possible children--we look for people like that, who have a positive outlook on life."
"The image I promote is positive," agrees Wolff. "I don't fit the stereotype--I'm a woman, I didn't join because of a man. I'm not subservient or submissive to anyone. I'm very independent."
After graduating from high school, Wolff moved out of her parents' house in Highlands Ranch and got a job as a cashier. She devotes the rest of her time to Klan activities, traveling to rallies across the country when she isn't promoting the KKK in Colorado. Wolff and her literature-dropping pals are the only active Klan group in the area, according to Bobbie Towbin of the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith (ADL). And while Wolff says she won't pose for "silly pictures in the robes," that traditional KKK costume is featured prominently on her recruitment fliers. Leaflets tucked under windshield wipers at this year's stock show featured a hooded Klansman paraphrasing Uncle Sam: "I want YOU for the Ku Klux Klan." The flier listed a post office box and phone number--answered by Wolff's recorded voice--through which interested parties could get copies of the Klan newspaper, a membership application and advertisements hawking white supremacist T-shirts, KKK banners and anti-Malcolm X baseball caps. Rather than actively recruit members, Wolff says, she waits for like-minded individuals to come to her. "If people are interested, then they'll listen," she says. "If not, it's a lost cause. We don't force people to think like we do."
Wolff traces what she calls her "racial awareness" to her upbringing. "There's a genealogist in the family that's traced us back to Henry VIII's time period, so my mom took us to Europe a couple times and was like, `This is where our family is from, isn't it great?'" Wolff says. "I was given a great sense of my culture."
Wolff's parents, however, think there was more to their daughter's conversion than a few trips to England. "Any number of things can happen when your kid is going through high school--when they get in the car and go out the door, you don't know what they're doing or who they're hanging out with," says their lawyer, Steve Janssen. "They didn't know who Shawn Slater was, but now they believe that he saw a person...who needed attention and gave it to her."
Although Wolff says she "never had trouble making friends," others at Highlands Ranch remember her as a loner. "People never went to sit by her, though I don't remember anyone talking bad about her," recalls Becky Lantz, Wolff's senior-year choir director. "She had a few friends, kids who weren't from here. They'd come, and everybody knew they didn't belong here." Those friends were skinheads, and when they came to concerts they intimidated the other students, Lantz says. "The kids always said, `You know they're here because of Brooke,' but I didn't really pay attention," she adds. "I guess they were right. She was a total sweetheart to me--I feel so bad for her."
Wolff says she was looking not for sympathy, but for meaning. "I chose not to involve myself in menial things like pep rallies," she says. "They didn't mean anything, they didn't do anything, they had no point. That didn't get me in with people, but I had friends and I didn't care."
During Wolff's freshman year, she met a skinhead from out of state who was visiting a friend. They hung out often and talked politics, she says, and before he left she asked him to shave her head. Then she donned a pair of Doc Martens and an aviator jacket, and started hanging out with the "front-line warriors" of the white-supremacy movement--the skinheads.
"The fact that they were actually doing something while everyone else was kind of waiting around on the sidelines to see what would happen was attractive," Wolff says. "Instead of just hanging out and doing stupid things, there was a point to what we were doing, and some sort of understanding between us about what we believed."
Wolff's introduction to the skinhead community coincided with a peak in skin activity in Denver, according to the ADL's Towbin. By 1992 Colorado led the nation in anti-Semitic skinhead incidents.
But as the area's more violent skinheads were sent to jail, prominent skin Shawn Slater made a crucial career move: He joined the Klan and was soon promoted to state director.
"At Shawn's first rally there were a lot of individuals who identified themselves as skinheads," says Kevin Duffy, an investigator with the Douglas County Sheriff's department. "And by the second rally, quite a few of them had grown their hair out, dropped the attire and joined the KKK."
One of those defectors was Wolff. Most area law enforcement agencies know of Wolff through her KKK activities; none have pinned her to any crimes. When she was in high school someone tried to burn a crudely made cross--constructed from two fence slats--on the lawn of a Jewish person living in Highlands Ranch. Duffy, who had met Wolff in her skinhead days, went to her parents' house to have a talk with her.
"We didn't suspect Brooke--there were a number of Jewish people living on that street who weren't targeted, so we thought it was probably just a couple of kids trying to get attention," Duffy says. "Brooke had always maintained--at least publicly--that she wasn't into ethnic violence. I figured I'd talk to her and give her a chance to prove it by helping us if she could."
Wolff told Duffy she didn't know anything about the incident. "I didn't do it, I swear," she says. Her conversation is peppered with such denials. She also says she knows nothing about a swastika that was painted on the high school sidewalk, greeting students as they arrived for school one morning. "I didn't do it," she says again. "I was home sick with mono." Despite Wolff's avowed attraction to the "action-oriented" skinhead movement, she claims she has never been involved in anything more drastic than periodic leafleting.
"We just did normal things--hang out, distribute literature, go to clubs and play pool," she says. "Brooke, as with a lot of skinheads from this area, claimed to be an independent--that means she supports the ideology but does not claim to run with any particular group," says Duffy. The investigator has kept in touch with Wolff for the last several years. "Here in Douglas County, we never really had any problems with the skinheads."
The Klan, however, could be another matter--particularly since Wolff wants to open her KKK den in neighboring Arapahoe County.
Although Wolff claims her parents "figured it out" that she was working with the Klan, they say they were unaware of her activities until they were contacted by a reporter. "They had no idea she was this seriously involved," says Janssen. "She never really admitted it to them; then she said that yes, she was a unit recruiter or something for the Klan."
Wolff's parents are both "midlevel managers at large national corporations," he adds, and fear that their jobs would be jeopardized if they were connected to their daughter's politics.
"They think it's pretty stupid if you have extremist views to advertise them on the front page of Westword," he says. "They think this will ruin her chances for a regular job."
But Wolff says she has just the position she wants: with the KKK. Next fall, Wolff says, she plans to attend Arapahoe Community College, where she'll probably study psychology. "I'm a natural at it," she says. "I'm good at figuring out people's motivations and reactions. It's like when people call and leave those hateful messages on the voice mail. I think our message touches something inside them, and they're afraid of that."
Wolff took a psych course in high school, she adds, and liked it a lot.
This comes as news to Ernie Flink, who taught that class. Since his is an interracial marriage, he frequently talks about equality, tolerance and respect with his classes. "Brooke never spoke up and argued her beliefs with me," he says. "She wasn't very active in class--I don't remember her as the sort of person who asked a lot of questions."
Such a pretty girl. Such ugly talk.
Wolff talks freely about the things she claims are ruining America: liberalism, Bill Clinton, affirmative action, drugs, "special privileges" for nonwhites and gays. She's careful when discussing more traditional Klan topics; any reference to "hate" is preceded by denials, and racial slurs are studiously avoided.
So is any discussion of the Klan's unsavory history. "I don't know how much of it is true," Wolff says. "I wasn't there, and I don't know anyone who was." And while she admits that her night-riding forefathers may have murdered a few people, she calls those lynchings merely "a form of law enforcement."
Still, good old-fashioned KKK venom begins to seep out when Wolff starts talking about people who might want to date their black neighbors. There's nothing worse than race mixers who are vying for approval from a politically correct society, she says.
"They obviously have no racial identity, no pride in themselves, and a self-esteem problem," Wolff says, crushing out a cigarette. "They want everyone to look at them and say, `Isn't it great?' They're spineless, and not to be respected." Wolff maintains, however, that the Klan has plenty in common with black militants such as Louis Farrakhan and black Muslims, including the mutual goals of racial pride and separatism. Wolff considers herself a member of the Identity Church--a white supremacist religious sect with a LaPorte congregation headed by pastor Pete Peters. Among other things, its doctrine includes teachings that white people descended from the lost tribes of Israel, that Jesus was not Jewish, that Jewish people are Satan's children, that nonwhites are subhuman. Does Wolff believe this? "I don't know," she says. "It's a very complicated topic--a whole other interview."
She does know, however, that she doesn't like Jews. "They are horrible, sick people," she says. Wolff claims to have read the Talmud and bases her animosity on what she says is Jewish hostility toward Gentiles. "They call Gentiles `goyim,' which means `cattle,'" she says. "I think that's very offensive to me and my people." (It's also incorrect. According to The Joys of Yiddish, by Leo Rosten, "goyim" comes from the Hebrew word for "nation.")
While Wolff is quick to deny any hatred on her part, she is equally quick to point out others' hostility toward her. She says she's been threatened, harassed and assaulted. The Klan's phone line receives a constant barrage of threatening phone calls from blacks, whites, gays--everyone. "People call me and say they're going to rape me, kill me. It doesn't bother me--we all sit around and listen and laugh," she says. "But I don't see how people can say we're the ones who hate."
Last August she filed a report with the Arapahoe County Sheriff's department, saying she suspected a former housemate of making prank calls to her house: The caller would whisper "white power" and hang up. This went on for about a month. Soon thereafter, she says, several former skinheads broke into the home Wolff shares with two housemates near Littleton and "roughed them up." "It was just a couple bruises and black eyes," she adds. "Nothing traumatizing, no big deal." Citing pressure from her housemates, Wolff refuses to say anything further about the incident. The Arapahoe County Sheriff's department says it is investigating the case, but declines to make additional comment.
Although Wolff doesn't eschew violence on principle, she says it's a tactic that should be used with care. "There's really no point in violence right now. Where does it get you? In jail," she answers herself. "I have no idea how things will turn out, but for now, violent acts are not furthering the cause in any way."
Wolff orders nothing to eat at the restaurant. She was recently diagnosed with e. coli, and says she suspects someone of deliberately trying to poison her--though she says she eats out too much to know where and when it happened. "So now I'm a vegetarian," she says.
She doesn't know who might have tried to poison her, either. Wolff surrounds herself with white supremacists; even her housemates are in the Klan. "Everyone I know is a racist," she says. "I guess you better not print that. "I think the term `racist' is misused--it's come to have a negative meaning rather than a positive one, that you care about your race," she says, thinking for a moment. "Say: `Everyone I know is racially aware.'
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