IT TOOK four days for President Trump to utter Heather Heyer’s name, in a tweet, and it appears that no one from his administration bothered to attend her memorial service on Wednesday. But Ms. Heyer, who died Saturday protesting the racist goons who descended on Charlottesville, hardly needed official Washington’s imprimatur. Her principles and resolve were incontrovertible proof of her integrity — far more proof than a morally compromised president could possibly confer by his words.
“They tried to kill my child to shut her up,” said her mother, Susan Bro, speaking at her daughter’s memorial service and pointing a defiant finger. “Well, guess what? You just magnified her.” She received a standing ovation.
Ms. Heyer never sought the celebrity she achieved in death. A 32-year-old paralegal with a high school education, she supplemented her income by working as a bartender and waitress. She was also, by all accounts, passionate about the injustice she saw around her. “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” she said in a Facebook post.
She was killed when a car allegedly driven by a Nazi devotee rammed into a crowd that had turned out to stand up to some of the most noxious elements in American society — anti-Semites, Ku Klux Klan members and other white supremacists who chanted and hurled racial and ethnic slurs as they made their way through the low-key college town.
To protest against those hoodlums took guts, and Ms. Heyer confided to friends beforehand that she was nervous about getting hurt. In those circumstances, and in the face of that sort of evil, though, there are really just two choices: silence and action. Ms. Heyer chose action. She went to the rally.
At her memorial service, many attendees wore purple, her favorite color, and spoke of her devotion to justice. There was no talk of revenge, and no one bothered to dignify Mr. Trump by mentioning his rant equating the violent racists who assailed American values with those who challenged them.
There was dignity enough in remembering Ms. Heyer’s fundamental decency and devotion to righteous causes. She was honored by friends, colleagues and relatives who recalled her pluck and spirit, her refusal to take vacations, the care she took with her work, the ardent views she expressed at the dinner table with family. “We’re not going to sit around and shake hands and go ‘Kumbaya’ . . . it’s not all about forgiveness,” said her mother. “But let’s channel that anger not into hate, not into violence, not into fear . . . into righteous action.”
In America’s long-running battles over civil rights, there have been many others whose convictions led them to take risks for which they sometimes paid dearly. On its website, the Southern Poverty Law Center devotes a lengthy page to such martyrs. Ms. Heyer is in that tradition of ordinary Americans of all races and creeds who perceived injustice clearly and, in standing up to it, lost their lives.
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