Weight of the World, Lifted: How one man forgave the KKK

Listen to this article

When Alvin Keller suffered a deeply traumatic hate crime at the hands of the KKK, he carried that burden of hatred for a large portion of his life. His story explores the process by which God moved Alvin to not only forgive those who had wronged him, but also to see grace as a constant force for loving others.

Below is a transcript of the video edited for readability.

Alvin Keller: I’m struggling, and I’m hearing him scream, and I’m saying to myself, “If I can get to them, maybe I can save them.” I’m trying to look at the guys that are holding me, but they are holding my head like this. And they said, “Look. this is what happens, boy, when you break the rules.” 

I was six years old. We were going to go fishing. I was down in Louisiana. We were coming home, and my uncle was telling me, he said, “We gotta hurry up. We got to get back across the tracks.” 

A group of Klansmen saw us. They were in trucks. And they asked us, they said, “Boys, what y’all doing across this track? You know you’re not supposed to be across the track.” And my uncle told them, “Hey, we’re going, boss. We’re going right now.” But they grabbed both my uncles, and he grabbed me. They came to this clearing where they have some crosses, and they put my two uncles on the cross and set them on fire and held my head back and made me look, and he said, “Look at what happens when you break the rules.” They said, “Now you run, and you tell him what happened.”

I ran home. I told my auntie, and I was like, “We didn’t do anything. We didn’t hurt anyone. We weren’t bothering anyone. So why?” I can remember sitting alone, thinking about what happened to them and what I wanted to do to Mr. Jones’s farm and burn his house down, and anything I see white, I want them to burn. I want them to hurt. I want them to bleed. I want them to scream. I went looking for fights, just to beat up somebody white. I wanted to get them all.

It didn’t really change until we got to Los Angeles. I was taken to school by my mother. This little white girl came, and she sat right next to me. So I got up, and I ran all the way home because I thought I might get beat up or something. I started seeing that I could sit next to a white person, go in the store and shop like they could, go to the park and play like they could. My mother kept instilling upon me that what happened was God’s will, and I couldn’t change it. But what I could do, is change my heart I started seeing the Holy Spirit and God moving in my life. I still had it in my mind that something was gonna happen to me.

I got off work. I fell asleep on the couch, and there were two Hispanic guys with loaded .357 magnums. The first four shots, I hit the floor. Then, they shot me four more times. So I got shot eight times. When in the courtroom, they found out who did this to me. Looking at them, the Holy Spirit said, you need to forgive. Wow, forgive.

I thought about my two uncles at that moment. I need to forgive, and forgiveness is healing. And I didn’t know that then. But I told him right then and there, I said, “I forgive you.” And, at that moment, It felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I didn’t have any more hatred and anger in me; it just was gone. All I wanted to do was be grateful that I’m alive and that God showed me grace to understand that. I don’t have to hate. I don’t have to be mad. I don’t have to be angry.

What happened, happened.

If the KKK members were here today, I would forgive them because forgiveness is part of being Christ-like. I would also tell them that, “Even though you did it, I don’t want to kill you.” Because, what would I gain? In order to grow, you have to forgive. If you don’t forgive, whatever you’re holding on to will eat you up inside. You start self-destructing. When I learned to forgive myself and ask God for forgiveness, wow, the weight of the world lifted. The weight of the world lifted.  

Do Good:

  • See more videos like this in our video feed.
  • Are you a Do Gooder, someone who cares about bringing goodness into the life of your family and community? Subscribe to The Do Gooders Podcast to be inspired by those doing good and find tangible tips for simple actions you can take today.
  • Did you know The Salvation Army served more than 23 million Americans last year fighting hunger, homelessness, substance abuse and more—all in a fight for good? Where can you help? Take our quiz to find your cause and learn how you can join in today. 
Salvation Army leader calls for prayer for Australia as support continues
Salvation Army Emergency Worker looking at fires

Salvation Army leader calls for prayer for Australia as support continues

By Simone Worthing and Lauren Martin –  As the bushfire crisis continues

10 ways you can fight human trafficking
black and white photo of woman looking outside window

10 ways you can fight human trafficking

When I first began to learn about human trafficking while I was in college—more

You May Also Like