At first glance, Matt Heimbach looks like a friendly neighbor, an always-smiling, 22-year-old college graduate who goes to church, and loves country music and drinking beer with his buddies.
But Heimbach is a white separatist who believes that the United States would be a better place if it were divided and went back to segregation. He has been called the future of organized hate in this country.
"Loving one's people is natural," he said. "Every other group is allowed to love their race for the best interest of their race. There's no reason why whites shouldn't."
When asked if he considered himself a racist, Heimbach said, "Sure. So what? I call it natural."
Last year, Heimbach launched a nationwide college recruitment campaign to spread his beliefs and has been on a cross-country trip to form all-white student unions on college campuses. His recruitment efforts started at his alma mater Towson University, and has plans to visit George Mason University in Virginia, Indiana State in Terre Haute, Ind., and American University in Washington, D.C. this spring.
He is tapping into a growing and frightening discontent in the U.S. In the last decade, the number of hate groups has nearly doubled from 602 to 1,007, according to Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
"The election of Barack Obama ... has ginned up the anger and fury out there," Potok said. "The fact that a black man was elected president, not once but twice, has merely added to that fury."
Heimbach was raised in a middle-class Maryland suburb. His parents are schoolteachers who, Heimbach admits, did not teach him to be racist. Today, he is estranged from his family.
"People always say, 'Well, he was raised like that.' Well, no, I wasn't. I was raised [in a] moderate Catholic home," he said. "My parents are ... very, very moderate."
Heimbach said he loved history and the Bible, and in his reading both, he found a place of superiority. In high school, he played a Confederate soldier in Civil War battle reenactments. It's those days of slavery that Heimbach calls the good old days.
"We would be a lot better off if the South would have won," he said.
He fears white heterosexual Christians have fallen prey, as he puts it. Many white separatists note that U.S. Census trends show whites being a minority by 2043. Heimbach attributed the issues white people face today to the slaughter of Native Americans centuries ago.
"The cataclysmic end to this empire is fast approaching," he said. "Was what happened to the Native Americans horrible? Yeah. But that's what's happening to whites now in this country."
Heimbach is far from alone in these beliefs. This year, he was a speaker at a "Stormfront" convention, a sort of annual retreat for white supremacists, where he met David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and former Louisiana state representative. He has since appeared as a guest on Duke's Internet radio show.
Heimbach sees the future of America as a place of extreme segregation "where there is no ill will, there is no hostility."
"We can still trade and get a visa," he said. A visa to visit, in his world, white Christians in the South, Jews in New York, blacks in Detroit, just to name a few of his examples.