Her name was Heather Heyer. She was 32 years old. She actively sought to right inequality both in her community and out, and on August 12, 2017, she was murdered for it.
Yesterday, her murderer was sentenced to life plus 419 years for driving his car into a crowd of people, murdering one and injuring many. He kept a picture of Adolf Hitler on his bedside table.
This is not the last we will see the effects of hate in our world, but it also is not the last we will see justice. The candle will always win against the darkness, but only if someone bothers to light it. We must call out hate when we see it, take action when we see it sprout before it grows. A sapling is easy to pull out of the ground, but a tree nigh impossible. Indifference to hate benefits hate more than it benefits love. Love can drive out hate, but only when it is active love. Thoughts and prayers do nothing against speeding cars and arsonists.
“The violence of the wicked will drag them away, for they refuse to do what is right […] When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” Proverbs 21
So what can we do? What does action look like?
Know the language. White supremacists don’t always call themselves white supremacists. They call themselves “identitarians”, “race realists,” or” alternative euro-nationalists.” They talk about preserving “western culture” against an “ethnic replacement.”
Identify them. Call them out, and do not give them a platform. They have a right to free speech, but not a megaphone. Hate that has nowhere to network will dissolve.
Start conversations. It’s easy to stay silent when everybody else is. Bring attention to causes that you feel strongly about. Be overwhelming.
Learn. Expand your comfort zone. Develop empathy. Listen to new perspectives. I didn’t know what to do after the Poway shooting so I went to my local temple. It’s hard to feel anything but love when you realize everybody is just like you. Surround yourself with a diverse group.
Donate. As Americans, we “vote with our dollars.” So vote for love. Donate to charities and organizations that reject hate and foster love. Life After Hate is an organization that specifically helps those caught up in alt-right and other racist and extremist movements.
We cannot be quiet. We will not. Demons run when a good man goes to war.
“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” – Heather Heyer, on her last Facebook post.
If you want to know more about white supremacist/neo nazi/alt-right/contemporary fascist language, ideology, strategy, and dog whistles, Contrapoints’ video is a good place to start:
You can also read the transcript here: