Black Nationalist, Johnathan “Shakem” Thrower, tells PBS, “When I look at a white person with a confederate flag it brings up a lot of emotion because normally that brings images of an enemy. In spite of the fact that all of them aren’t Klansmen , and all of them aren’t KKK members, it’s still something that you have to get over psychologically in your head…that was something that really took me a moment to get over.”
When Shakem did get over the fear, he reached out to James Bessenger of the Secessionist Party to start a dialogue. James says, “It was the 1st time I’ve heard from someone on that side of the debate who didn’t describe me as a racist, or a fascist, or a Neo-Nazi. So it was kinda refreshing to see there were people on the other side of this debate paying enough attention to at least see where we were really coming from without jumping to assumptions.”
In order to prevent a repeat of the chaotic violence in Charlottesville, the two arranged a peaceful joint press conference to discuss their opposing views on the removal of a confederate monument in Charleston.
A PBS interviewer asked James, “What about the Neo-Nazis and the Klan or other people who might just say, ‘You’re a traitor. I can’t believe you’re sitting shoulder to shoulder with this guy right now’.”
James replied, “I would tell them that those organizations that have tried to involve themselves in defense of Southern heritage and monuments, they have only made matters worse. When organizations like that present themselves at these events, like what we saw in Charlottesville, it only exacerbates the problem. And they have made absolutely zero progress in alleviating the tension that we feel.”
Then James turned to Shakem, and concluded, “Me and this man have more in common with each other than I do with some of those people.”