In a world where two men were insensitive enough to dress up as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman for a Halloween party, and a black college student is arrested at a high-end luxury department store for buying a belt, this teen’s story will restore your faith in humanity.
In a series on kindness, the BBC recounted the incredible moment in 1996 when Keshia Thomas, an 18-year-old at the time, protected a man believed to be a white supremacist affiliated with the KKK from an angry mob.
In June of that year, the Ku Klux Klan held a rally at the city hall building in Ann Arbor, Mich. The town, whose population is known to be home to mostly liberals, came out in large numbers to protest the presence of the notoriously racist group.According to reports 300 anti-clan protestors showed up, while just 17 Klansmen were present.
Thomas was in the crowd of anti-clan protesters, when someone spotted a man in the crowd amongst them with an SS tattoo and a confederate flag shirt. The group, including Thomas, immediately chased the man.
But, in a flash, the crowd went from controlled protestors to an angry mob, hitting the man with sticks and kicking him as he lay on the ground. In that moment, Thomas separated herself from the mob and threw herself on the man to protect him.
“When they dropped him to the ground, it felt like two angels had lifted my body up and laid me down,” Thomas said.
Thomas’ act of true altruism was captured by photographer Mark Brunner in a series of photos, and it still inspires people to this day.
“She put herself at physical risk to protect someone who, in my opinion, would not have done the same for her,” he said. “Who does that in this world?”
Even the police assigned to protect the Klan members felt conflicted. A retired police officer, shared his story with Ann Arbor news last year.
“Behind the faceshield, what bugged me was when the crowd chanted, “The cops and the Klan go hand in hand!” Inside you want to scream, “No! No! Don’t you understand that is completely false? I’m here because it is my duty to protect all of you.” Outwardly you stand, you say nothing and get ready to duck if necessary.”
Today, Thomas continues to work to make a difference, by doing simple things each and every day.
“The biggest thing you can do is just be kind to another human being. It can come down to eye contact, or a smile. It doesn’t have to be a huge monumental act.”