Following the chaos that ensued in Charlottesville, Virginia, back in August, two people in California unexpectedly became friends and are documenting their journey to overcoming hate.
Christina Renée Joubert of Redondo Beach, California, was grappling with the racially-driven hate and violence that took over Charlottesville as the “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally came face-to-face with counter-protesters.
According to Patch, as an African-American woman, Joubert was struggling with the hypocrisy in the way some progressives claim to be tolerant while also condemning those who think differently.
While out on a walk, she was approached by a white man covered in swastika tattoos named Johnny. The two struck up a conversation, and after about an hour, they were crying on the beach together and holding hands.
From that day forward, a friendship blossomed.
"For the first time ever I was able to look past that racial boundary and just have a conversation," Johnny said of his first connection to Joubert.
Johnny was not raised with white supremacist ideals in his home or among his childhood friends. It was his first trip to jail, after getting into trouble for stealing and abusing drugs, where he was first introduced to white supremacists and aligned himself with them for the sake of protection and camaraderie behind bars.
"I found myself confronted with this one day and I didn't have any identity. I self-identified as a skinhead but I didn't really know what it was," he said. "I was a fake, I was lost, and I didn't know who I was. I just wanted to be accepted."
He started doing research to discover points he could use to justify and validate his white supremacist ideology, but he soon realized that most of his friends weren't using facts or statistics to base their beliefs upon; they just wanted to be accepted into a group and therefore took on this hateful world view.
After being released from prison and being ordered to stay at Delancey Street — a residential self-help organization for former substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless, and others in bad spaces in life — Johnny began to see things differently.
"My time at Delancey Street is when I really started realizing who I wanted to be," Johnny said. "I've been a thief my whole life, a drug addict, someone who's selfish and who will steal from you to get what I need. When I'm at Delancey Street, the only way to really grow is to help people out."
Applying what he learned at Delancey Street to real life allowed Johnny to see past Joubert’s race. She is his first “non-white friend” and it feels “so liberating,” he said.
"He's still trying to disconnect completely with that life," Joubert said. "When we go out in public together, the problem for him isn't necessarily that I'm black, but what other people will think or say about us together. But on the other hand, what will my community think about his swastika tattoos?"
Using their own unlikely and serendipitous friendship, Joubert and Johnny have developed a three-part video series titled “Understanding Hate — Through Tolerance, Love & Forgiveness” in an effort to dig deeper into the meaning of hate and overcome it.
"We have similar upbringings, and although he had turned to hate to find love, we both ended up at love," Joubert said. "We've healed each other in a deep, unexpected way."
In the videos, Johnny’s body and face are blurred to protect his identity, but upon observing how viewers react to their dialogue, they may consider revealing him later.
Despite the anonymity, their conversations are powerful and thought-provoking. The pair eloquently and engagingly turn hate on its head, and it’s beautiful.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Macaaa