Violence by skinhead gangs is on the rise again. This alarming surge reverses a downward trend that began with a law enforcement crackdown on the gangs whose violence reached its peak in this country back in 1988. That's when I met up with them. The confrontation started with a question from the audience on my old daytime talk show exactly eighteen years ago, November 3, 1988.
It ended with what became the most famous brawl in television history.
A woman from the audience asks white supremacist John Metzger why he can't just live and let live? He responds by calling one panelist a "kike", and another, civil rights leader Roy Ennis an "Uncle Tom". Ennis walks over to Metzger, who shoves him. Ennis responds by getting Metzger in a chokehold.
That's when all hell breaks out.
Playing the brawl in slow motion, you can see the flannel shirt-wearing racist blindside me and break my nose with the metal chair, which I still have.
But that's the last shot he lands as I go after him, pulling his shirt over his head hockey style...then getting in a few good shots as he struggled to keep his pants covering his plumber's crack.
Following the chaos that bloody afternoon, I said this to the still shell shocked audience.
"When someone calls someone a name, when someone attacks someone in a subway because they don't follow their particular belief, then it's not just the responsibility of the person attacked, its not just the responsibility of the person being mugged, it's all of our responsibilities."
According to the recent 2006 Intelligence Report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the extremely violent gangs consisting mainly young white racists are currently active in cities like Los Angeles, Portland, Salt Lake, Denver, Boston and the Midwest, and that they have links to similar gangs in Europe.
The brawl came a week before the 1988 election of the first President Bush. But in an obvious grab for sales, Newsweek magazine put my broken nose, not the new President on its cover, managing to benefit from tabloid television while simultaneously condemning it.
I still believe what I said then about confronting racist violence. And I worry that with all the focus on Islamic terrorists, law enforcement is taking its eye off this homegrown variety, which appears to be on the resurgence.