It may make people uncomfortable, but Diana Ratcliff wants the world to know that when her cousin Heather Heyer was killed last weekend, run over by a car as she counter-protested a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, it was an act of terror.
"They'll call it murder," Ratcliff wrote in an op-ed for CNN, published Sunday. "They may call it a hate crime, but then struggle to call it terrorism. That man was fulfilling a call-to-action from white nationalists. He was committing an act of terror." If anyone with darker skin had been "marching the streets of Charlottesville wielding tiki torches, carrying semi-automatic rifles, chanting racist chants, engendering fear at a house of prayer, and menacing its residents, we'd call them terrorists," she added.
Ratcliff described her family as having a "white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant background with Appalachian heritage," and said they "have never had to be afraid that someone would target us or lynch us because of the color of our skin." During a vigil in Charlottesville, one speaker praised Heyer for her courage but asked why it took the death of a white woman to get the public outraged over racism and bigotry. "All I could think was, 'Heather is sitting in heaven right now, shaking her head in agreement,'" Ratcliff said. For those who think racism is "dying out with an aging population," they're wrong, Ratcliff warns — instead, it has "found new life, and it's going to get worse if we don't put a stop to it now." Read the rest of Ratcliff's op-ed at CNN.