Justine and Heather

They died in ways that African Americans recognize. They weren’t African American. Those facts complicate the old certainties about who marches and who stays home, who kills and who dies.

Michael Eric Ross
Aug 20, 2017 · 6 min read
The circumstances of their deaths are inimical to the received wisdom of American race relations: that street-level activism on behalf of equality is always performed by the ones most likely to be beneficiaries of that equality (Damond: Stephen Govel Photography; Heyer: @heatherheyer)

Not least of all because of Damond and Heyer’s tragic, sudden visibility in the culture, the perceived calculus of who lives and who dies in racially-impactful situations is a little different now — and you dismiss the social importance of perception at your peril. The notion of “skin in the game,” actionized faith in the principles basic to the fight for social justice, looks to be more of the ecumenical civic experience it’s always been.

Mohamed Noor (City of Minneapolis)

The idea of a “perfect face” for a police victim makes officers who are inclined to act unlawfully that much more susceptible to doing their own victimization at gunpoint — made perversely comfortable in their actions by confidence in judicial precedent, and the fact that getting away with it once is contagious, and makes it easier to get away with again and again.

The circumstances of her death couldn’t put her more on the front lines of the pursuit of social justice in Trumptime. Heyer decided to be there, she chose to represent something outside herself; she made the conscious decision to potentially put herself in harm’s way on behalf of a principle, in support of people who didn’t look like her, people who didn’t share her life experience, for the purpose of making this country better than it is. If that’s not the living, working embodiment of being Woke, what is?

Too often, we fight these vast social battles in a relative vacuum; we do this combat in a way that conforms with our longstanding, gut-level expectations about friend and foe, ally and enemy. Intellectually, we know better, but we do it anyway. But in spite of our inclination to tribalize, our temptation to compartmentalize, events like these show just how wide and deep this social struggle really is now and has always been.

The Omnibus

Whatever, et al.

Michael Eric Ross

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The Omnibus

Whatever, et al.