In Memory of Heather Heyer

The weekend images from Charlottesville remain haunting. Young men emboldened with tiki torches reminiscent of the Klan, their facial expressions riddled with anger, claiming to be agents of justice for oppressed white people. Fortunately, America saw through their ridiculous rhetoric. And critical evidence that their agenda had nothing to do with freedom or justice was the lack of women among them. Though too often erased from the narrative, women have been at the forefront of every legitimate movement to advance civil rights.

One of the latest, #BlackLivesMatter, was founded by three: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. And the Women's March on Washington earlier this year was the largest single day demonstration in U.S. history. Women have also been the catalyst for the most fundamental ideals governing our society. The Greek philosopher Socrates, whose writings laid the foundation for ethics, was taught by a priestess, Diotema. 

Qualities often associated with femininity, like caring and giving, are seen as weak by totalitarians and extremists because they are obsessed with systems of domination and destruction. Central to their perversion is the fake news that the most powerful person takes life instead of giving it. Which is why they must trivialize, demean, and deny the reproductive rights of the half of the population that births our nation. Fortunately, their "right" cannot unite. It only divides.

Americans who stand for justice are stronger than ever. The most resounding response from responsible leadership to the Charlottesville tragedy invoked one word more than any other: love. And the fact that renouncement of hate came from across the political spectrum is important progress. So, too, is the importance of women's voices and leadership. We honor Heather Heyer, who lost her life advocating for all of our liberty. I believe in our democratic right to assemble. I have even taken my children to marches to teach them the importance of civic engagement through peaceful protest. Believe me when I tell you: when there are no women at a rally supposedly promoting someone's rights, it's about anything but.

Once you've taken care of your own well being (I personally had to scream at my television for an hour), prayed for our country, and hugged your loved ones, one of the most important ways you can take action against the bigotry and violence that we saw in Charlottesville is to engage with the organizations that already do. The Southern Poverty Law Center is the leading organization that monitors hate groups and seeks justice for the most vulnerable people in our society, and the NAACP has a long legacy of fighting for civil rights. Let's support them and each other as our nation moves forward, despite those trying to take us back.