A Hundred Little Hitlers
On the night of November 12, 1988, in Portland, Oregon, three members of a skinhead group encountered an Ethiopian immigrant named Mulugeta Seraw. A fight broke out and Seraw was brutally beaten with a baseball bat; soon after, he died. Living in the Portland area at the time was journalist Elinor Langer, who followed the case closely and in 2003 published A Hundred Little Hitlers: The Death of a Black Man, the Trial of a White Racist, and the Rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement in America (Metropolitan Books, 2003).
In A Hundred Little Hitlers, Langer uses Seraw's murder as a prism through which to examine a variety of interlinked social and economic issues in the United States, including right-wing extremism, the persistence of racism, and the inadequate and problematic use of the legal system to address these highly charged issues. Langer's critically-acclaimed book is the result of 10 years spent exploring the worlds of neo-Nazis, both in Portland and nationally.
At an OSI Forum in New York on February 2, 2004, Langer, a former OSI Individual Project Fellow, discussed her book and the often ambiguous and contentious aftermath of both the crime itself and what it illuminates within U.S. society overall. She was joined on the panel by Todd Gitlin, a writer and professor who lectures frequently on culture and politics; OSI President Aryeh Neier; and OSI Vice President and Director of U.S. Programs Gara LaMarche, who served as the moderator.