It isn’t uncommon for our spaces to be filled with “allies” who come to tell us about how open we should be, how color-blind they are and/ or how much they care about our plight. A plight that has existed for the better part of five centuries. These conversations, typically, stay within our spaces (where they aren’t needed). Heather Heyer took that conversation to her white brethren when she went to Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the alt-right’s reclamation of white supremacy. (Did it ever leave?)
Heather Heyer was the only person to die when terrorist, James Alex Fields, Jr., used his vehicle as a weapon against protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. I can’t imagine losing my child. That is tragic.
Nobody goes to a protest and thinks, “Maybe, I’m going to die today.”
Well at least not when you’re white. I’m almost certain that the thought never ran through Heather Heyer’s mind. And why would it?
There were 20 victims total including a black man from what images are showing of that horrific incident. As unfortunate as her death is, painting her as a “martyr” or a “hero” is really an insult and disservice to the many black men and women who have sacrificed their lives while working to fight racial inequities.
It sounds callous. Saying Heather Heyer and the other 19 victims were in the wrong place at the wrong time doesn’t add to the warm and fuzzy narrative of the “great white martyr lost her life while fighting for black liberation and justice”. It just doesn’t.
I get it.
We praise her and other progressive whites “for doing the work”. But what part of that constitutes being called a hero?
Heather Heyer didn’t stop a deranged, white lynch mob from hanging and mutilating the scores of black folks who were murdered unjustly by domestic terrorists. She didn’t volunteer to be a shield for an elderly black woman before Dylan Roof opened fire. Nor did she lay her body across the black man being assaulted by racist white folks.
I am not insinuating that she deserved anything that happened to her. However I am saying, heroism is not based on speaking. It is based on action. Her mere presence at a march for white people with white people is not heroic.
If anything, her death at the hands of this hateful, vile animal should be a warning that even “allies” do not have the protection of whiteness.