"What does it take for someone to move from a position of hate and racism to a position of tolerance and respect like the transformation that occurred in Derek?"
In my opinion, the reason behind Derek's sudden change of emotions towards racism has to do with what lead him to believe in these horrible things in the first place. All of Derek's hate goes back to two important factors. One was the traumatizing death of his father, which was caused by a gang of African Americans, and the introduction of gangs to his neighborhood, and the other, the fact Alexander Cameron had taken advantage of his juvenile ignorance and rash thinking to mold Derek into doing his bindings and preaching his ideals .
The environment in which Derek lived in, which had just been took over by gangs composed by Black men, gave him a bad and wrong view of non-white races and his fathers death served as trigger to emotionally destabilize him. In fact, as states David O. Carpenter in his article about enviromental causes of violence, a person is led to do actions of violence and hate due to the bad stimulus in their environment and society.
Upon being being emotionally destabilized by his father's death, Cameron took advantage of Derek and led him to into his life of hate. Derek, then, not having a full understanding of his society and by relying on solemnly generalizations , jumped head first into the world of neo-nazism. Similar events like these actually happen quite frequently throughout the USA. Many young folks, due to lack of understanding, ignorance or emotional anguish, tend to be influenced into joining theses kinds of societies. Mr. T.J. LEYDEN talks about this very issue. in this NPR News article.
What then led Derek to abandon his old ideals, was his once again traumatizing yet revealing time in jail. There, he was able to live among the different races in which he despised so much. After a while, due to his newly acquired friendship with a black man, he then, discovered race did not necessarily determine a person’s character, causing him to confront Cameron and free himself from the hate he harbored for so long. What freed in fact freed Derek from his unpleasant feelings was the empathy he felt for the very first time. Only by looking at things from a black person’s point of view was he able to determine what he was doing was wrong.
The reason people in general change ideals the way Derek did has to do with them eventually placing themselves in another’s position and realizing how irrational their thinking was. A quote I found to be very relevant to this idea of empathy is from Antoine Saint-Exupéry in “The Little Prince”:
“I did not know how to reach him, how to catch up with him... The land of tears is so mysterious.”
This has to do with how Derek was never able to understand those people's feelings. He was not aware they were normal people that in no way deserved to be treated they way they were.
Relevant video- Very similar story to Derek's. (Had a traumatic event in his life ( Parents' divorce) and was moved by ignorance.)