The only difference between Heather Heyer and Deandre Harris is that Deandre Harris is alive. They were both in Charlottesville, Va., protesting against white supremacy. They were both victims of white supremacist terrorist attacks.
Heyer was killed Saturday when authorities say James Fields drove his car through a crowd of counterprotesters during the convention of a terror cell of radical Caucasian fundamentalists. Heyer was 32 years old.
Twenty-year-old Deandre Harris survived a public lynching by some of the terrorists who attended the same Unite the Right rally as Heyer. Perhaps it is the traditionally weak upper-body strength of Nazis that saved Harris (Hitler famously could barely bench 100 pounds), but they did try to kill him, too.
Well, maybe there is one other difference between the two.
If you can stomach watching the car attack, you will notice something else: The crowd quickly rushed to help the victims of the automobile assault. Some of them carried the injured victims to safety while other brave souls tried to force the automobile to stop.
If you watch the Harris attack, next to no one helped. Chuck Modiano, the New York Daily News reporter who took this video, documented the incident, and he ended up kicking a Nazi in the back. Zach Roberts, the photographer behind the viral photo, made no mention if he helped.
This is not an indictment against Modiano, Roberts or anyone else who watched this happen. It is impossible for anyone to know what he or she would do in a situation surrounded by bat-wielding Nazis. Anyone who says “I would’ve ... ” is a liar or an idiot.
I only bring this up to illustrate a relevant point. Look closely at the picture again.
Ain’t this America?
Isn’t this photo a metaphor for all black people in this country? Beset on all sides by peril, absorbing a beating our bones are too fragile to withstand, but evil keeps swinging. Look at them all, wearing white collars and khakis, blue jeans and tennis shoes, symbolizing the entire span of the Caucasian classes waiting for their turn to kick us in the teeth.
Isn’t Harris just like all of us? Don’t we all wonder if we’ll survive? If we will see tomorrow? Don’t we all have bloody lips and bone bruises? Haven’t we all stitched up a wound and prayed it will heal? Haven’t we all once thought to ourselves, “This is going to stop now”? Haven’t we all believed the beating would stop because they couldn’t possibly be so cruel? Haven’t we all marveled at the length and width of their capacity for evil? Haven’t we all blessed the beating because it did not kill us?
Do you think Harris remembers the individual faces or recalls only the whiteness of their skin? Do you think he differentiates between the baton swingers and the ones standing idly by? Won’t they marvel at how he holds no hate in his heart?
We are the only ones asked to do this. To let shit go. To forgive the people who caused our pain. To rub our fingers over our wounds and not blame the accessories to the crime. To love our enemy. To redefine our enemy. To believe that the people who stand in silence watching our near-murders are not our enemies.
Not just the picture takers. The ones who hear racist jokes and don’t tell the jokester to shut the fuck up. The ones who don’t challenge their parents’ bigotry or their uncle’s homophobia. Those who don’t throw punches at oppressors are oppressors, too.
And that is what is why neo-Nazis, skinheads and Klansmen are not afraid to show their faces. As much as I hate to say it, this is not Donald Trump’s fault (and believe me, I really hate to say it). It has nothing to do with blacks, Mexicans, Jews, gays, Muslims or anyone else. It is because some white people don’t give a fuck.
If I am to believe what I am told, most white people aren’t racist. Most white people don’t have hate in their hearts. “Not all white people ... ,” they say.
If any of this is true, then all supposedly nonracist white people in America should be ashamed of themselves. You all could have stopped Saturday before it reached sunlight. Before it touched down in Charlottesville. Before a woman died. Before Harris had to be stitched up. There are more “good white people,” right?
I almost hope I am wrong. I kinda hope the racists outnumber the good people. It would be disconcerting, but at least I could find some solace in knowing that these recurring blood spills could not have been prevented. Intelligence and knowledge could eventually erase racism, but there is no known cure for not giving a fuck.