What We Can Learn From Heather Heyer, Victim Of Charlottesville Violence

 
Heather Heyer is remembered by her friends and family as a tireless advocate for the disenfranchised.

Heather Heyer is remembered by her friends and family as a tireless advocate for the disenfranchised.

Facing an administration that has spoken volumes with its reluctance to condemn white supremacy, allyship like Heather Heyer's is more vital than ever.

As the nation continues to reel from the violence of the “Unite the Right” rally staged by white nationalists, neo-nazis, and white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, VA, on Saturday, details about the life of Heather Heyer—the 32-year-old paralegal killed by white nationalist James Alex Fields Jr., who drove his vehicle through a crowd of counter protesters—have emerged.

In the days since, friends and family have painted a picture of a woman who was a staunch defender of the disenfranchised, and a passionate advocate for social justice. 

“She always had a very strong sense of right and wrong. She always, even as a child, was very caught up in what she believed to be fair,” her mother Susan Bro, told the Huffington Post.

“Somehow I almost feel that this is what she was born to be, is a focal point for change. I’m proud that what she was doing was peaceful. She wasn’t there fighting with people.”

“I don’t want her death to be a focus for more hatred,” she continued. “I want her death to be a rallying cry for justice and equality and fairness and compassion. I’m very sorry that [Fields] chose that path because he has now ruined his life as well as robbed a great many of us of someone we love very much.”

Alfred A. Wilson, manager of the bankruptcy division at the Miller Law Group, where Heyer worked, recounted in an interview with the New York Times that “Heather was a very strong woman” who stood up against “any type of discrimination. That’s just how she’s always been.”

In the two days since Heyer was killed, a GoFundMe campaign raised over $225,000 for memorial expenses. According to an interview with Heyer’s stepfather in the New York Daily News, her funeral will take place on Wednesday. 

Until this morning, after facing two days of intense blowback, the President of the United States had refused to explicitly denounce white supremacy, the KKK and a neo-nazi movement largely reenergized by his campaign pledges, his rhetoric, and his actions since taking office. 

The fact that the leader of a nation, whose autonomy and global influence was built on the backs of slaves and immigrants refused to call out the evils of white supremacy, underlines more strongly than ever the necessity of the bravery and dedication Heyer exemplified. She is an example of white allyship that must be emulated now, and loudly.

As we move forward in a fight against an increasingly emboldened contingency of individuals who uphold hate-filled, racist ideals, and an administration that's doing little about it, here are additional resources and ways to fight back and keep the fight that Heyer aligned herself with alive.

Words: Deena Drewis
Photo: Facebook, via Reuters