Former Neo-Nazi opens up about his past and how he's fighting for change

A former Neo-Nazi says the process of unlearning racism has taken him decades and he still carries "a lot of shame" for the way he behaved 30 years ago.

Christian Picciolini was recruited to America's first Neo-Nazi skinhead group at 14. 

For the next eight years he rose through the ranks of the group to become a leader and then the frontman for two white power punk bands which toured the US and Europe. 

Now, Picciolini is an advocate for peace and works in the community to teach others about the harm racist extremism causes. 

Picciolini has helped more than 300 people overcome their hatred and turn their lives around through the Free Radicals Project.

The Free Radicals Project helps people leave extremist groups through non-aggressive and community led methods. 

Speaking to The AM Show about his past, he says racism was not something he was raised on - it was a learnt behaviour.

"I grew up isolated and bullied - I think the common misnomer is people are attracted to the ideology but I was searching for identity, community and purpose," he told The AM Show.

"Those three things are important to all of us."

He says "potholes" in his life journey drove him off course and towards the fringes of society where the Neo-Nazi movement was waiting for him.

The ideology of racism relies on "a lot of internal hatred" according to Picciolini. He says it's easier for people who are struggling to project blame than confront it. 

"There was a lot of activity which placed the blame for trouble we had in our lives on someone else because it was easier to blame someone else than to have responsibility ourselves," he said. 

During his eight years in the Neo-Nazi subculture, Picciolini says he spent a lot of time on the streets fighting - but the thing he regrets the most is the propaganda he produced.

"The music I made lives on today despite my efforts to get it taken down," he said.

"I still carry a lot of shame for what I did for those years - what I did is still popular and has grown in popularity and the ideas I put out are still flourishing - everything i've done over the 20 years has been to try and dismantle that."

Watch the full interview on The AM Show above