Heather Heyer’s Death Is Tragic But She Was Not A Hero

Heather Heyer

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.


K. Araújo, a native Detroiter, is a cross between Claire Huxtable, Rosie Pérez and Millie Jackson. Widow, professional dragger of filth and Mami to the dopest Ethiopian EVER, she is the Editor in Chief of “Negra With Tumbao” and a Staff Writer for “The Urban Twist”. Keka has been known to shake what her mama gave her, is the hell and high water, an expert salsera and cussologist with a penchant for the finer things in life and is and forever shall be- unapologetically black.

  • Letthemeatcake

    Proof positive that it doesn’t matter what a white person does, it will never be good enough. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. There’s no winning with this kind of “perpetual victim and the world owes me” mentality.

    • Nope .. what’s proof positive is white folks will expect cookies for doing what they are supposed to do. It’s not ANY black person’s job to talk to your racist ass cousins, uncles, mamas and daddies…. YOU DO IT. And her death isn’t heroic but it is eye-opening… This lets “the good white folks” know that their asses aren’t immune to these nutjobs either.

      • SB

        I hear you. I had a conversation with a cousin about something similar months ago. There’s nothing wrong with white people using their privilege for good, but it becomes an issue when their help or ‘sacrifice’ trumps the unsung POC that’ve been in the trenches long before they came along; unfortunately, and painfully, some black people get super excited and have the nerve to say “well, I admire wypipo because they’re doing the work that we’re not doing.” Say what? It’s a slap in the face.

    • Michelle Sotak

      She went to a protest. That doesn’t make her & all the other white people that were there hero’s. She wasn’t singled out & specifically targeted by the crazy asshole that drove his car into the crowd of people she was in. She is not a civil rights martyr. She didn’t willing sacrifice her life for the cause. What happened to her, and all the people that were injured, is tragic, but she doesn’t deserve to be placed on a pedestal or called a hero because she’s white & went to a protest.

  • Mary Burrell

    White folks got to clean up what they messed up. It’s up to white Americans to fix the system that they have privilege and benefit from that hurts black and brown people and other people of color.

  • truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

    Very Interesting words. What happened to Heather Heyer was unjustified. Yet, it is incorrect for some to compare her to Medgar Evers and Ella Baker. As others have greatly mentioned, it is certainly the responsibility of white people to eliminate white racism (in their communities) since black people didn’t create it and we aren’t responsible for it. We (as black people) should continue to fight oppression, stand up for truth, resist evil, and build, but we aren’t responsible for the system of racism. Unsung black heroes should be acknowledge for their sacrifice and courage.