After Almost Three Violent Decades of Racism, Movement Leader Explains Why She's Calling It Quits
Photo Credit: JEFF NAVARRO
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Barely into her teens, Lynette Sonya Avrin was drawn into the skinhead movement in the early 1980s in Denver, which at the time was a real hotbed of racist activism. An angry young woman who felt that her parents essentially abandoned her, Avrin witnessed an enormous amount of violence and experienced a good deal of it herself. She also knew some of the most infamous activists of the era. But after she had two children and a long series of bad experiences with her supposed friends, she began to have doubts about her ideology and lifestyle. The turning point, she says, came in 2009, when a confrontation with a neo-Nazi boyfriend landed her in the hospital and terrified her then-10-year-old son. Today, she is raising that son in Colorado. Avrin, now 45, contacted the Intelligence Report after spotting an article about women on the radical right, “Secrets of the Sisterhood,” that mentioned her in the Report’s Spring 2013 issue. She wanted to tell her story and to explain how completely she now rejects the racist movement. In the following interview, Avrin discusses how she came to join the movement, what it was like, and why she finally left.
Lynette, can you start by describing your early life in the Denver area?
Sure. I was adopted by a Jewish family at 6 weeks old and grew up knowing that I was adopted. My mom and dad had three biological sons but my mom wanted girls, so she actually adopted me and my sister.
My parents got a divorce when I was 4, and I remember it. That was the point in life where I think I basically started getting angry. My mom had custody of us but we were pretty much brought up by nannies and housekeepers or my brothers. She was never around. She was out dating men or whatever she was doing. I remember her bringing home a man who she dated for years. I really liked him, but he had a cake in one hand and a kitty in the other, and I’m thinking, “Who is this guy and why is he trying to bribe us? You’re not my dad, you know.”
I was a pretty wild child. I was one of those kids who was brought home by the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department — even at age 4, I would run away. I usually just went to a neighbor’s house to play, but I didn’t tell anyone.
My dad got custody of us finally when I was around 10, and then he told us, “Hey, I’ve got a new girlfriend.” It was my mother’s ex-best friend.
They had housekeepers take care of us, too, because if they weren’t working, then they were traveling to Europe. So we had another set of parents that weren’t really around. And here comes my dad telling me what to do and I’m like, “Where have you been?”
What was your dad like?
He was a physicist and a scientist, a very smart man. He built an instrument called a nephelometer that measured the surface of Jupiter. He’s retired now, and my stepmother passed away about a month ago. I haven’t really spoken to him in probably 15 years.
We didn’t have the best relationship. He would tell me, “You’re grounded,” and I basically would say F you, and I was gone. I wouldn’t listen to him. At around 12 or 13, I got into the whole punk rock scene in downtown Denver. I had the Mohawk and all that stuff and then I started to get interested in the skinhead thing. That’s when they were pretty big in Denver.