On April 23, 1999, the body of Irineo Soto Aquilar, a Mexican migrant worker, was found in a drainage ditch near the center of Lakeside, California. He had been stoned to death. The walls of the ditch where his body was found were covered with swastikas and other symbols of white racism. They were symbols well known to the children of this small town and to the three local teens convicted of the murder. Unlike the nationally reported attack on Carlos Colbert, the black Marine paralyzed in 1998 by white racist youths in neighboring Santee, this horrific murder never even made headlines until this film was broadcast.
Culture of Hate-Who Are We? was filmed over the course of two years and documents a series of violent and race-related events involving angry, alienated white kids growing up in this historically white, working-class community; from the murder of the Mexican migrant worker in the Spring of 1999, through the Spring of 2001, when two high school shootings occurred in the adjacent towns of Santee and El Cajon.
The focus of the film goes beneath the one-dimensional, sensationalized images of skinheads, or the killer-kid stereotypes so often portrayed in media, to illuminate the social, economic and personal factors molding the lives of these highly feared, yet deeply frightened young people. Their stories are interwoven with the story of the small town they grew up in and cherish, and whose name they wear tattooed on their bodies.
Once a lush, fertile river valley of thriving farms and ranches, Lakesides streets are now lined with dilapidated strip-malls and fast food restaurants. The San Diego River, which ran through the center of town, is now a complexity of sand-mines, scrap metal yards, dumping pools, and drainage ditches. People here are clinging tightly to a way of life they feel slipping away, a place they describe as like Mayberry, the fictional town in the popular 1950s television series.
The white power, or white racist youth of Lakeside also cling to images from Mayberry; a safe home, a good job, loving families. Their realities are endless cycles of rejection and neglect. This reality is captured in interviews with several of Lakesides white power teens; revealing lives entrenched with parental drug abuse, domestic violence and shattered dreams in the Pink Ghetto, one of many low-income housing projects in the town.
Culture of Hate-Who Are We? is an unprecedented look into the hidden world of white power youth. Living on the fringes of ordinary life, they are kids who have slipped through the cracks of San Diegos social and educational systems. Their existence has gone shockingly ignored by both local residents and media, even in the face of the murder of Mr. Soto Aguilar.