Saturday, June 22,
1996: Keshia Thomas felt a kind of spontaneous anger
rising through her body as she observed a group from
the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan positioned on the
second floor promenade of the city hall building in
Ann Arbor, Michigan. Klan members held a permit to
conduct a rally on the public property.
Standing below on the
street among 300 or so anti-Klan protesters, Keshia,
an 18-year-old African American woman, caught sight
of a white man watching the spectacle. He displayed
Confederate flags on his vest and T-shirt. Overcome
with emotion, Keshia joined a group of angry
students, both black and white, who rushed the man.
Keshia reported later, I wanted to yell
at him, What did I ever do to
you? Before she could engage the man,
someone hit him with a sign and others began to beat
him. Once on the ground the man received multiple
punches and kicks to the body.
immediately. She threw her body over the victim to
protect him from the blows. Police stepped in and led
him to a squad car for a quick departure from the
angry crowd. Keshia learned later the man was not a
Klan member. When she came to his aid, she believed
him to be a white supremacist like those leading the
Klan rally above the street.
still somebodys child
You dont beat
a man up because he doesnt believe the same
things you do, Keshia noted after the incident.
A bit surprised by all the attention she received,
she said, People dont have to
remember my name. I just want them to remember that I
did the right thing (People, July 8, 1996, page
Living life based on a
code of clearly defined values often produces
to everyone except the person
with the values.
Keshia believes racism is
always wrong. Her value system led her to City Hall
on the Saturday of the Klan rally. Keshia believes
all people have a right to hold to their own beliefs
even when they conflict with hers. She approached the
man who would be beaten to challenge his ideas, not
threaten his safety. Keshia believes no one should be
abused physically for the convictions they express.
Keshia believes violence solves nothing.
Of course, the reason I
know she really holds to these values is because I
watched the news report showing her laying her own
safety on the line for another human being with whom
she strongly disagreed. Talking about values has
become a national pastime of sorts these days. Living
out a strong value system in the real world is quite
another matter. Value-based living always costs