Remembering Charlottesville: The Legacy of Heather Heyer Lives On In Our Resistance

Her name is Heather Heyer. Today is the one-year anniversary of her death. She died while peacefully protesting a hate rally in Charlottesville, Virginia after a car mowed her down. In the midst of vile and vitriolic hate and violence she stood amid a large crowd for compassion and kindness, inclusion and diversity, justice and peace.

Her martyrdom in the fight to resist the hate and prejudice that has come out from the shamed corners of society will not be forgotten. Her courage and her legacy will endure in the fight against white supremacy.

Last week Fox News host Laura Ingram traded her racist dog whistle for a bull horn when she spoke of “changing demographics” and “changes most of us didn’t vote for.” This obscene speech only seeks to stoke the fears and fuel the fervor of the likes of those Heyer and many others marched in protest.

Instead of fueling fear we need to be fostering friendship across all markers of diversity. We should thank God for the joy and wonder to live in a country where people from all over the world can be welcomed. We should thank God for the opportunity to learn and discover the beauty of other cultures, traditions, and perspectives.

White supremacy is anathema to the reign of God and founding principles of our democracy. The hate rally in Charlottesville last year and the one today in Washington, D.C. are just a couple of reminders that even after the Civil War and the Civil Rights Act, this still needs to be said.

In the ongoing fight against white supremacy and Christian nationalism, the author of Ephesians offers a helpful guide (4:25-5:2). Hate and fear will not be overcome with wrath and anger. However, what would happen if we listened to this letter and focused on building one another up? What would be the result if we focused on the well-being of the community and positive behaviors like kindness, being tenderhearted, and forgiving. If we shelve falsehoods and spoke the truth as the letter implores, I imagine we would live in a more just and peaceful world.

Christian community exists for the very purpose of building one another up, especially in a culture and world that will tear a person apart, relentlessly. Race, religion, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability are all ways people are objectified and beaten down instead up built up.

It is incumbent on the church that to practice and live the welcome of Christ. It is imperative that the church say unequivocally that Black lives matter in resistance to white supremacy. It is necessary for the church to renounce the evil of Christian nationalism. It is crucial for the church to work for justice, peace, and the common good of all people and all creation.

In the midst of all the hate and division in our country what would it look like to practice kindness and be tenderhearted towards one another? Albert Schweitzer says, “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”

Be kind and see what happens to the fear and hate in our world. Stand in solidarity with ordinary people like Heather Heyer whose courage and conviction lives on in our collective work to resist hate and bigotry in the fight for justice and peace.