A powerful video demonstrated the possibility of a path to understanding when a fearless teen showed empathy towards a Proud Boys member who repeatedly debased himself.
Activist Vixxy Vyohr, who was not in the video, filmed and posted the clip on Twitter after covering Saturday’s demonstration in Denver, Colorado, held by the Proud Boys.
The far-right extremist group hawked false claims that President-elect Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election due to voter fraud.
Initially in the video, the 43-year-old Proud Boy member, dressed in Right Wing Death Squad gear, appeared resistant to speaking with the 17-year-old Black Lives Matter protestor.
But unlike others who would default to vilifying and dismissing individuals associated with hate groups, the teenager remained persistent and questioned his views.
The two began a meaningful conversation in which the man eventually let his guard down and admitted:
“Honest to god, I’m kinda dumb, straight up.”
But the off-camera teen immediately countered:
“You’re not dumb.”
The man continued:
“I am kinda dumb. I don’t really research much, I just kind of live by the, by the like knee jerk.”
“I just think and move like a f’g dog.”
Vyohr later identified the young activist was a woman named “Ashira” and said of her interaction with the man:
“I think it’s one of the most poignant of the day.”
“The Proud Boy both sums up the reactionary mindset of the average American in 2020 and have what seems to be a moment of genuine reflection while talking to a young protester.”
This will be my last clip and I think it's one of the most poignant of the day. The Proud Boy both sums up the reactionary mindset of the average American in 2020 and have what seems to be a moment of genuine reflection while talking to a young protester. #denverprotest pic.twitter.com/aF1pOTAhCT
— Vixxy Vyohr (@AnarchoFoxx) November 22, 2020
The teen continued to dispute his claims and asserted:
“You can change. You don’t need to call yourself dumb.”
“You don’t need to call yourself stupid. I believe you’re very educated.”
The man told her he was 43 and added:
“I feel like I’m stuck in my ways.”
When Ashira asked who was telling him that he was “dumb” and “stupid,” he replied, “me.”
To which she passionately responded that it was not true and encouraged him to:
“Tell ‘me’ to stop. You need to get those negative thoughts–stop ’cause it’s not true.”
“You need to know that it’s not true.”
The man acknowledged her by nodding and thanked her when she told him she firmly believed he was smart, despite not knowing each other.
The clip ended with him saying:
“For what it’s worth, I don’t want this to be the way it is.”
“I’m sorry for using the F-word. My apologies.”
In reaction to the video, Vyohr tweeted that the man’s words were:
“important in terms of conversations surrounding deradicalization and working class unity.”
Many were moved by Ashira’s fortitude in her non-judgmental interview.
There's hope. Compassion.
— Proud Mask Wearing Mom (@Melster46663132) November 22, 2020
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all talk to each other like this, instead of screaming & threatening each other?
— NotAngryAnymore🇺🇸🌊 (@gemluvr257) November 23, 2020
Great work. Whoever that 17-year old is it looks like she really made a difference to this guy. A moment of pure honesty. I'm sure if the rest of that group could be that honest, they would say the same thing. They must have a sad story behind them to be filled with so much hate.
— Annette Locke (@ablocke7) November 23, 2020
Imagine if we actually communicated with each other instead of assuming each others ignorance or stupidity.
If we could do this, we could truly free our country.
This is what the people at the top fear the most.
— the Angry Sound Guy (@theAngrySndGuy) November 22, 2020
Welp. That made me tear up. Away from other influence and pressures of “the mob mentality” there is a chance to make a real human connection. Okay I need to get my thoughts out (ctd)
— Rachel B 🇺🇸 (@Rachel10486745) November 23, 2020
It’s wonderful to see a 17 year old as a role model for all the adults out there. Every hurricane starts as a just low pressure system! Let your words and wisdom change your future world. Fight ignorance and hate with compassion and empathy!
— The ‘Damus (@killgoardamus) November 23, 2020
He’s scared, you can see it in his eyes when that horn went off. Fear makes him dangerous and the lack of education makes him easily scared and not empowered to step away from this madness.
— 🌊🌊 SickOfItAll🌊🌊 (@samm_hill) November 23, 2020
a lot of these people are looking for a place to belong, and to feel significant. We all need that and sometimes find that in terrible places.
— @Bҽα (@Bea_Trice55) November 23, 2020
This Twitter user noticed that Ashira’s compassion resonated with the protestor, who appeared to have a moment of introspection.
I have no idea who the young person is speaking. But you could see it in his eyes. She said something to him that he has never heard. I feel like he just wants to belong to something. She may have changed his life with one comment
— Terah (@ItsMeTerah) November 23, 2020
If you can get through to even one person then it’s worth taking the time to try like she did.
— 𝓢𝓹𝓸𝓸𝓷𝓲𝓮 𝓝𝓾𝓻𝓼𝓮 (@PrplScrubsCHPN) November 22, 2020
“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”…Amnesty International
— PacificKat (@barbkat) November 23, 2020
Exactly. A seed planted. The vine might take. The vine may grow. 🌱
— 🇺🇸🕊🌻BouKatt✈️🗽🇺🇸 (@boukatt) November 23, 2020
Now I want to know who he is to get through to him.
This almost made me cry.
— Leigh Hartley ✡💙 (@LeighHartley) November 22, 2020
Ashira shared Vyhor’s clip of her on her social media and said of her encounter:
“I am glad that people are being open minded and self reflective!”
“Know your worth and remember you can always change! A conversation I will never forget.”
You’re amazing. What a kind and giving thing you did for that guy. So brave. I admire you.
— Valerie (@sillytiki) November 23, 2020
People directly complimented Ashira and expressed their admiration for the young woman with a bright future.
As someone who educated kids from racist groups to help get them out of the racist groups, and shed racism.. you truly have a future. You connected with him, told him what he probably never heard before, and that weighs more to some than anything. You did great, you really did.
— Sabrina Zombie (@NumbZombieMom) November 23, 2020
It seemed like no one had ever said some of those things to him or actually listened to him before. It’s really depressing, honestly. 😩 Kudos for your cordial, nonjudgmental, and encouraging discourse. I could see the moment when your words rattled him. 🤗🤗
— Waxing Poetic (@ShoebaccasPurse) November 23, 2020
This is wonderful…watch how a young person in a tough situation like that, used it as an opportunity to reach out and promote change.
Our kids are wonderful, smart and compassionate human beings who will truly change the future. Way to go Ashira 💜
— Yer Wan (@MyCharlestonPad) November 23, 2020
You are an awesome young woman. Thank you for reminding us (your elders) that we all have the potential for growth, even if some of us become cynical over time and don't make the effort to reach out.
— MarionNowLetsWintheSenateStein (@Marionstein) November 23, 2020
I loved seeing that video. It is people like you that pave the way to a future of equality and respect for everyone on this planet
— Political Rubber Duck (@Inflatable_Duck) November 23, 2020
Ashira – you made my day. I'm not exaggerating. You instigated the most hopeful moment I have yet to see in all this chaos. To think your entire teens have been spent in the middle of this mess. You've had to grow up fast and it shows here. Keep spreading that energy. Much love❤️
— Steve Rothgeb 🌹 (@FuzzyWarbles) November 23, 2020
You’re 17 Wow👏🏽. Ashira the compassion in your voice and your attempt to help him evolve is beautiful. This is how healing starts and you have a gift.
— Denise Thomas (@denise_thomas6) November 23, 2020
There is hope for humanity after all.
This heartfelt exchange showed that honest conversations can be had in a civil manner when there is no hostility and when we listen to one another.
And while there are no guarantees for quick solutions, it’s a good place to start.
Well done, Ashira.