In 2017, as violence erupted during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the world witnessed a re-energized movement of seething hatred and intolerance. For Jacob Goodwin, that movement is a way of life. "I advocate for white civil rights," the young man says from a prison visitation booth. He was one of six white supremacists who were caught on video participating in the beating of a black counter protester during the rally. "The Path to Radicalization" catches up with Jacob in the lead up to his trial.
The documentary attempts to define the source of Jacob's racism, and portray the emotional plight of his parents as they veer from intense grief to awkwardly justifying their son's beliefs and actions. Their story is a microcosm of the racial tensions that continue to fester throughout the United States.
The Goodwin family states that their only goal is the preservation of their white heritage, which they feel has been endangered by liberal crusaders who wish to deny or rewrite history. In their view, the white race is facing genocide.
They insist they are not the racists their detractors claim they are. Yet the film shows the family in collaboration with a particularly nefarious group who parades through the streets donning riot gear and Nazi symbols. Members are overheard screaming angry rhetoric and threats of violence against African Americans, Asian Americans and the Jews. One boastful recruit speaks of his yearning for a return of the Third Reich.
White supremacist groups are enlisting a new generation of recruits into their cause at an alarming rate. These recruits are typically disenfranchised and easily impressionable youth. Billy Roper is one of the most visible neo-Nazi recruiters, and he offers free legal counsel to the Goodwin's after their son's incarceration. Desperate to assist their boy, both parents begin to fall under the influence of Roper, and quickly descend deeper into radicalization.
"The Path to Radicalization" is not easy viewing. It's flooded with foul racist language and incendiary points of view. But it's essential in understanding the crisis of modern racism, and the methods these separatist groups employ to keep it alive.