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.
Of course, Heimbach faces a lot of angry scrutiny for being so outspoken about his views. When he and his friend, Klansman Thomas Buhls went on a recruiting trip to Indiana University in Bloomington, a group of student protestors went after them with water hoses. It was at the same university where, a decade earlier, white supremacist Benjamin Nathaniel Smith went on a two-day shooting spree, eventually killing himself.
"When you become the most hated man on campus, that does put a strain on relationships, both romantic and family," Heimbach said. "It's one of those weird things where people hate me because I'm kind of like a bogeyman."
But Heimbach's recruiting efforts have led to unexpected alliances, such as with Dawah Bayn Yisrael, a militant black advocate who has called white people the devil and once praised the Boston marathon bombings as white America's getting what it deserved. Heimbach feels he has an ally in Yisrael, someone else who believes the races must be separate.
"I think it's really important to reach out to black nationalists," Heimbach said. "You can't work together if you don't ... sit down and have these discussions about issues, where we have common interest."
They are, in many ways, two sides of the same coin: Heimbach's views on race were shaped, in part, by reading history, whereas Yisrael's were shaped by his experience as a Gulf War veteran.
"When I was sitting there in Iraq ... the Arabs ... would be saying, 'Hey, you black soldier sitting in the corner, why are you here fighting the white man's war?" Yisrael said.
While on his outreach campaign, Heimbach also went to Indianapolis to meet with Reverend Mmoja Ajabu, a former Black Panther militia and Black Nationalist, who is now an ordained minister running for a seat in the United States Congress. Reverend Ajabu said his world view was crystallized when his son was convicted of murder, a crime which Ajabu insists his son didn't commit.
"That goes on every day [in] a courtroom," Ajabu said. "If they're white ... there is respect, but if the defendant is black, it is, 'Sit down, shut up, you ain't got nothing to say.' ... It's a whole different world."
Heimback and Ajabu found a common enemy in corporate America, with Heimbach suggesting during their meeting that they "hang a couple of bankers" and "get rid of the international elites."
Ajabu agrees with Heimbach's vision of the future, that after the races separate, and after their common enemies are dealt with, it will finally be time to deal with each other.
"That's why I can work, for instance, with a Black Nationalist," Heimbach said. "I can't stand working with white people that are traitors, because traitors, they have betrayed us, they're cowards. I see only one place for them -- in a ditch."