An outstanding story of selflessness and believing that you should stand up for what is right. It’s something we can all learn from and be inspired by.

In 1996 the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

It was a strange choice of location, as Ann Arbor is a multicultural place, where extremists like the KKK are generally not supported or welcomed.

Much like any KKK rally, there was a large police presence. And a huge number of people gathered to demonstrate that far-right views were not welcome.

It started like any KKK rally with the police (in riot gear armed with tear gas) keeping the small number of Klansmen separate from the protesters. There was a fence separating the opposing sides too.

Then one of the protesters noticed a man wearing a Confederate flag t-shirt in amongst them. The Confederate flag is often seen as symbolic of far-right views and has unsavoury connotations. The man also had an ‘SS’ tattoo on his forearm.

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The KKK ‘undercover’ man is spotted

A shout went up from the crowd “Kill the Nazi”. The man started to run. He was knocked to the ground. The mob surrounded him and started hitting, kicking and beating him with their placard sticks.

And the pack mentality took over. When part of a group, people often behave in a manner they never would if they were on their own. Things looked bleak for the middle-aged white supremist.

Until a teenage girl, who happened to be black, decided to make a stand. So she did the only thing she could think of to save the man. She threw herself on top of the man to protect him from the blows.

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Keshia protects the KKK man

The photographer who captured the images, Mark Brunner, could not believe what he was seeing. He said: “She put herself at physical risk to protect someone who, in my opinion, would not have done the same for her.”

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Selflessness in action

The teenager who performed this amazing act of bravery and selflessness was Keshia Thomas. She herself had experienced violence and had always wished there had been someone there to help her – to make it stop. She said: “Violence is violence – nobody deserves to be hurt, especially not for an idea.”

She never heard from the man whose life she saved. But she did have an amazing moment a few months later. She was sitting in a coffee shop when a young man approached her and said: “thanks”. When she asked what he was thanking her for he told her that the man was his dad.

That meant so much to Keshia. She realised that she’d not only helped the father, but she’d potentially stopped the son from following down a path of violence. Now, 20 years later, she tends not to think about the incident. She prefers to look forward.

In her own words: “I don’t want to think that this is the best I could ever be. In life you are always striving to do better.”

You can read more about her story on the BBC site.

At a time when the world is changing faster than ever before we should all try to be more tolerant. To be more understanding of other people’s views.

In short, we should all try to be more like Keshia.

 

 

All images © Mark Brunner

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