Heather Heyer and Other Victims of Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again”

2017-08-14 23

Face of hate — James Alex Fields.

Ask most African Americans and they know them by their first names: Yusef, Tamir, Michael, Trayvon, Sandra and Philando.

All of these Americans had their lives ended prematurely because another person or persons failed to see their humanity, their right to exist due to the color of their skin.

At the time of their deaths, none of these Americans was doing anything extraordinary. Yusef was guilty of being in Bensonhurst, New York, to inquire about a car that was for sale when he was attacked by a mob of White youths and shot.

Twelve-year old Tamir Rice was in the park, playing with a toy gun he had received as a Christmas gift. A toy gun at Christmas shouldn’t have been an unusual sight, but somehow Tamir was deemed to be a threat by a trained law enforcement officer who shot Tamir within two seconds of his arrival.

I won’t go through the detail of every brutal and unwarranted killing on the short list above, but in each circumstance the victim was performing an activity that any human being should be able to engage in without fear; walking home, driving home, or like Michael Dunn, listening to music.

The response to these deaths has been outrage from many Americans. Many White Americans that had previously turned a deaf ear to the plight of African Americans were forced to confront cold, hard facts and images that supported decades of claims of racial injustice that could no longer be dismissed. To their credit, many of these White Americans have joined African Americans to protest these injustices, unfair treatment of people of color and to fight for equal rights for all.

Heather Heyer was one of these people. Heyer was killed last Saturday while standing up against white nationalist groups that had descended on Charlottesville, VA. One of the white nationalist James Alex Fields, 20, of Ohio, drove his car into a crowd of protesters, killing Heather. She was 32.

Fields, who injured 19 others, has been charged with one count of second-degree murder.

According to friend’s accounts, as told to The Washington Post, Heather went the demonstration with compassion in her heart. She was asking white nationalists, “Why do you believe this?” or “Why do you think this way?”

Heather realized that systemic racial prejudice isn’t an African American issue, it’s an American issue. African Americans don’t accuse all Whites of being white supremacist; it is also insane for Whites to accuse African Americans of being the recipient of preferential treatment –see almost any episode of Fox News during President Obama’s term.

It will take the efforts of all Americans to overcome the hatred of some Americans, such as those that believe that Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again” is a personal call from their president to return America to a time when White control was unquestioned and their privilege.

America can only fulfill its promise to be a great nation once we make the idea of White supremacy taboo. Racism and racists will never go away, but we can make it so outside the norm that it becomes unacceptable on all levels.

We can only have meaningful policy conversations in this country once we unite to condemn racial and religious persecution. Only when we rid our political discord of racial bias can Democrats and Republicans, as well as people of all religions and colors participate in the growth and security of our nation.

Heather Heyer’s life was taken from her because she chose to stand up against racism and for equality and human dignity. Heather’s name should be spoken alongside those others whose lives were cut painfully short by people who refused to see their humanity.

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