White Allies in the Fight for Civil Rights

Written by: King Pynn

When it comes to making changes and righting wrongs within our society, group efforts and team work are expected. Everyone needs allies especially when it comes to tackling big issues like prejudice, racism, sexism and civil rights. This even means forming alliances and accepting outside help from people who may not share your racial, ethnic or cultural background. Perfect unity may at times seem like an unachievable dream but history has shown that it is a very possible and powerful thing to achieve. They don’t call this place the United States for nothing.

“She was very strong in what she felt and she spoke with conviction,” Heyer’s close friend and co-worker Marissa Blair told Chris Cuomo on CNN’s “New Day.”

“She would never back down from what she believed in. And that’s what she died doing, she died fighting for what she believed in. Heather was a sweet, sweet soul and she’ll never be replaced, she’ll never be forgotten.”

Heather Heyer, pictured above, is the brave and compassionate young woman who was killed at the White Nationalist rally held in Charlottesville Virginia on August 12 2017. She was one of many who were protesting the rally. Heather, 32, was killed when a man named James Alex Fields Jr., from Ohio, plowed through a crowd of protesters with his car. “We were just marching around, spreading love — and then the accident happened,” Marissa Blair, said. “In a split second you see a car, and you see bodies flying.” Heather, a Charlottesville native, spoke out against inequality and urged her co-workers to be active in their community.

Heather’s father Mark Heyer said of his daughter “She died trying to bring about that purpose,” he told CNN. “She was always passionate about the beliefs she held, she had a bigger backbone than I did.” Susan Bro, Heathers mother, addressed Fields. “This wasn’t a video game, buddy,” she said in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “This was real people. There are real consequences to what you did. I’m sorry you’ve chosen to do that. You have ruined your life and you’ve disturbed mine, but you took my child from me and I’m going to be the voice that she can no longer be. You gave us a national forum, and maybe I should thank you for that, but I can’t. I’d rather have my child.”

This tragic incident has sparked a few conversations. Conversations about freedom of speech, the right to protest and counter protest. What is the true definition of terrorism? What is “White nationalism”? Lastly has the recent rise of racial tension in America inspired a new level of empathy across racial lines? To answer that last question, no it hasn’t.

The civil rights battles during the 1960s could not have been fought and won without the help of white and non-black supporters. Most African Americans did not have the political, social and financial power to accomplish what needed to be done at that time. Heather Heyer will now be remembered among other white civil rights activists who put their life on the line in the fight against systematic racism.

People like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, two of three American activists of the Civil Rights Movement and Social Workers, murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi, during Freedom Summer in 1964 by members of the Ku Klux Klan.

People like Paul Guihard, a reporter for a French news service, was killed by gunfire from a white mob during protests over the admission of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi in 1962.

People like Viola Gregg Liuzzo, a housewife and mother from Detroit, drove alone to Alabama to help with the Selma march after seeing televised reports of the attack at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She was ferrying marchers between Selma and Montgomery when she was shot and killed by a Klansmen in a passing car in 1965. These are only a few names among many but like Heather these civil rights activists should not be forgotten or allowed to fade into the forgotten pages of history. These are people who had great empathy. They could’ve easily enjoyed their privilege from the sidelines but instead they decided to fight alongside their brothers and sisters to make a change. So, with all the racial tension in the aftermath of the Charlottesville tragedy, it’s good to know we have allies like Andrew, Michael, Paul, Viola and Heather who will help us fight against inequality and hate. Allies who are willing and already have laid down their lives to make a better future for the next generation.

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”- Heather Heyer

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