public diplomacy

“I Am Heather”

Ambassador Mark L. Asquino (ret.),  SMPA Senior Public Diplomacy Fellow (2010-11)

In Phoenix on September 22, President Trump once again bitterly complained about his alleged ill-treatment by journalists. He disputed criticism of his reaction to white supremacist violence in Charlottesville from the media and others, including some in his own party.

Speaking to supporters, the president praised Fox News’ Sean Hannity and defended former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was recently found guilty of criminal contempt by a U.S. District Court. Mr. Trump said the sheriff was being unfairly punished for “doing his job.” Mr. Trump signaled that based on this he might pardon Mr. Arpaio, who has long been accused of racially-profiling Hispanics.

But there were no such words of praise from the president for Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman murdered as she peacefully protested racism, white supremacy and hatred in Charlottesville. He made only passing reference to her as “Heather,” saying the driver of the car that killed Ms. Heyer was a “murderer.” What Mr. Trump failed to mention is the fact that the accused killer was a professed Nazi sympathizer.  Just hours before allegedly taking Ms. Heyer’s life and injuring nineteen other peaceful protesters, the man being held for the crime had demonstrated with white supremacists.

During her short life, Heather Heyer was courageous and outspoken in opposing racism, unfairness and cruelty.  No one would ever have questioned her willingness to condemn the KKK or neo-Nazis.  Ms. Heyer died as a direct result of her attending a rally to protest against such groups.  Earlier this month, I participated in a “Rally Against Racism” here in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  I took a photo of a woman with a sign that read: “I am Heather.”  I found her message a simple, moving tribute to Ms. Heyer’s memory.

All of us would do well to emulate Heather through advocating the values she died defending.

Caveat: The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication or the George Washington University.

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