If one ever need to see what that Good Samaritan, Jesus-love looks like in action, one only need to read the story about what Keisha Thomas did during a white supremacist/Ku Klux Klan meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, seventeen years ago.
During the protest, Albert McKeel, Jr., thought to be a Klansman because of the SS tattoo on his arm as well as his a t-shirt bearing the flag of the Confederacy- was knocked to the ground and attacked.
Thomas, herself black, instinctually threw herself on top of McKeel Jr. in an attempt to save him from further harm.
And she did.
When asked why she did what she did, Thomas responded that she knew from personal experience what it was like to be hurt (based on the assumption that the “hurt” she endured was a result of her being). Thomas also said that no one deserves to be hurt based upon an idea.
This is a perfect embodiment of loving one’s neighbor as one love’s himself (Leviticus 19:18).
This story is emblematic of being a Good Samaritan. Thomas risked her own safety to protect someone whose ideology prompted him to be there in demonstration against who Thomas was and what she represented. Just like the Samaritan.
And when the atmosphere got thick with tension on the one side and hate on the other, it was she ‘who took pity on him, covering his wounds’ (Luke 10: 33-34) to prevent further injury.
It wasn’t any of McKeel’s (potential) fellow white supremacists who came to his aid; it wasn’t any of those gathered there in opposition against the supremacists who came to his protection. It was Thomas.
Considering this, I can hear Jesus asking, ‘Which of these three [Thomas, McKeel’s companions, the demonstrators against hate] do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the demonstrators?’
If you haven’t figured this out as of yet- the love Jesus taught and demonstrated isn’t simply a word. Jesus-love or kingdom love is an action- particularly toward those who lack the resources, the will- and or love– to reciprocate it.
Read the story below – it’s a bright light in a world when the lack of humanity and civility give us every reason to question goodness, God, etc.
Lastly- this teenager had the character and love to protect someone who possibly hated her. It’s reasonable to assume that because of the presence of such hate, McKeel may not have done for Thomas what she did for him if the situation were reversed. She was able to overcome her emotions to courageously protect him from injury- up to and including saving his life, despite the potential consequences to her personal safety. Quite frankly, this is a model for everyone to follow. But considering the specifics of the story, a model for blacks to follow in regards to loving (and forgiving) people whom blacks feel may have wronged them because of their color.
Reprinted from BBC News
By Catherine Wynne BBC News
Keshia Thomas was 18 when the Ku Klux Klan, the white supremacist organisation, held a rally in her home town in Michigan.
Liberal, progressive and multicultural, Ann Arbor was an unusual place for the KKK to choose, and hundreds of people gathered to show them they were not welcome.
The atmosphere was tense, but controlled. Police dressed in riot gear and armed with tear gas protected a small group of Klansmen in white robes and conical hoods. Thomas was with a group of anti-KKK demonstrators on the other side of a specially-erected fence.
Then a woman with a megaphone shouted, “There’s a Klansman in the crowd.”
They turned around to see a white, middle-aged man wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt. He tried to walk away from them, but the protesters, including Thomas, followed, “just to chase him out”.
It was unclear whether the man was a Ku Klux Klan supporter, but to the anti-KKK protesters, his clothes and tattoos represented exactly what they had come to resist. The Confederate flag he wore was for them a symbol of hatred and racism, while the SS tattoo on his arm pointed to a belief in white supremacy, or worse.
Mob mentality had taken over. “It became barbaric,” says Thomas.
“When people are in a crowd they are more likely to do things they would never do as an individual. Someone had to step out of the pack and say, ‘This isn’t right.'”
So the teenager, then still at high school, threw herself on top of a man she did not know and shielded him from the blows.
“When they dropped him to the ground, it felt like two angels had lifted my body up and laid me down.”
For Mark Brunner, a student photographer who witnessed the episode, it was who she saved that made Thomas’ actions so remarkable.
“She put herself at physical risk to protect someone who, in my opinion, would not have done the same for her,” he says. “Who does that in this world?”
So what gave Thomas the impetus to help a man whose views it appeared were so different from her own? Her religious beliefs played a part. But her own experience of violence was a factor, too.
The circumstances – which she does not want to describe – were different. “But violence is violence – nobody deserves to be hurt, especially not for an idea.”
Thomas has never heard from the man she saved, but she did once meet a member of his family. Months later, someone came up to her in a coffee shop and said thanks. “What for?” she asked. “That was my dad,” the young man replied.
For Thomas, the fact that the man had a son gave her actions even greater significance – she had potentially prevented further violence.
“For the most part, people who hurt… they come from hurt. It is a cycle. Let’s say they had killed him or hurt him really bad. How does the son feel? Does he carry on the violence?”
Teri Gunderson, who was bringing up her two adopted mixed-race daughters in Iowa at the time, was so touched by Thomas’ story that she kept a copy of her picture – and still looks at it 17 years later. Gunderson even thinks the student made her a better person.
“The voice in my head says something like this, ‘If she could protect a man [like that], I can show kindness to this person.’ And with that encouragement, I do act with more kindness. I don’t know her, but since then I am more kind.”
Brunner and Gunderson both often think of the teenager’s actions. But Thomas, now in her 30s and living in Houston, Texas, does not. She prefers to concentrate on what more she can do in future, rather than what she has achieved in the past.
“I don’t want to think that this is the best I could ever be. In life you are always striving to do better.”
Thomas says she tries to do something to break down racial stereotypes every day. No grand gestures – she thinks that small, regular acts of kindness are more important.
“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.”
Looking back at his photos of Thomas pushing back the mob that day in June 1996, Brunner says: “We would all like to be a bit like Keshia, wouldn’t we? She didn’t think about herself. She just did the right thing.”