What is the value of a life? Many of you may respond with “priceless”, others might add qualifiers based on their relationship to a particular life in question. There are questions of when life begins that keep the abortion conversation a never-ending debate. Among all these answers there is some level of unspoken understanding that human beings value life in general even to the point of devaluing the lives of other species or placing them lower on a scale of importance. But sometimes we also place the value of other human lives on a lower scale.
On August 12, 2017, we saw the ugly side of humanity and came face to face with what hate is capable of when we lost Comrade Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, to the evil that is white supremacy. Excluding
those that support white supremacy, most of our country responded with shock, outrage and started to demand the ouster of those with a known history of support for white supremacy from Trump’s cabinet. Heather Heyer died because she chose to stand up for what she believed in and her name and her face will not be forgotten by those of us who respect and praise the type of person she demonstrated herself to be. Her final message and picture have spread far and wide. But there was another photo that caught my eye.
While looking at all the news coming out of #Charlottesville, I, like many of us, watched horrified at the level of chaos and violence that happened; then this photo popped up on my twitter feed:
— Zach D Roberts (@zdroberts) August 12, 2017
In the age of Trump, we all have been made aware how important access to honest journalism and evidence of what is actually happening in this country are to our freedoms. But my gut rolled when I saw this. My first thought was why isn’t he helping that man rather than taking a photo? I asked Photojournalist, Zach D Roberts and he replied stating that a gun had been drawn on him “right after this photo” (bold added by me for emphasis). Journalist Chuck Modi, arrived at the parking garage where these white supremacists were beating 20-year-old De’andre Harris and he had a different reaction:
— ChuckModi (@ChuckModi1) August 12, 2017
I have asked myself if I’m over reacting, I’ve asked myself what I would have done in a similar situation as I do most of my progressive work from the comfort of my home by writing articles. I’m well aware of that fact. Then I read an article written by The Root’s Yesha Callahan about Corey Long who was involved in the fight and he seemed perplexed at the reactions of those capturing photos and video of what was happening:
Long was in the parking deck with Harris as he was getting assaulted by white supremacists. But Long wasn’t the only one there. There were other people standing around with their cameras, not helping. They seemed to be just worried about capturing that perfect shot.
In Callahan’s article, Long was quoted as saying, “The Nazis tried to force their way into the stairway that we were hiding in. The fact was that they (photographers) just stood around recording everything. The fact that they didn’t help us . . . It was outrageous”.
There is no denying the outright dehumanization of marginalized people when it comes to extremely overt actions like James Alex Fields, Jr. driving a vehicle into a crowd of people. But what of the moment when someone like Zach D. Roberts, who seems to be fighting on the right side of history, who was attempting to capture the heinous actions of white supremacist, decides, probably unconsciously, that getting that picture was paramount to helping a fellow human being? When people of color talk about microaggressions and all the little ways we are made to feel as “other” or lesser than, it’s moments like this that leave us feeling as if no one truly recognizes our humanity. Not even those who claim to be our ally. Many on Mr. Roberts’ twitter feed praised him for being brave in taking the picture, I even received a reply from some of those defending Zach in reaction to my question:
When it comes to the life and well-being of other people, this is a crucial question for each of us to ask ourselves. As we still are fighting the idea that some people are less human, we have to be willing to ask ourselves how does a belief like that take hold of a person. Does it start from a life altering event where you suddenly harbor hate for someone else and people like them or was it an idea that crept up slowly, bit by bit, in little ways we may not notice until one day we decide to take the picture before we attempt to help a fellow human being?