A Lot to Learn
The simplest way to defang a powerful photograph is to claim it is false. Labeling fact as falsehood is a form of lying.
A white demonstrator at a June 2020 Black Lives Matter protest holds a sign of support. It reads: “I’m Sorry I’m Late. I Had A Lot To Learn.” Swarms of social media posts claim the image is false, the wording on the sign is altered.
The photograph is genuine. The wheelchair-bound protestor goes by the Facebook name Ryan D. Wheelz and he confirms the viral photo as authentic. “The black civil rights movements,” he writes, “were the biggest supporters of the disability rights movements that happened from the late 70s through the early 90s, there’s no way I could just sit idly by and watch these folks continuously get destroyed through systemic racism.”
The photograph was made June 16, 2020 in Bethel, a tiny south Ohio town, population 2,711. In an unfortunate turn of events, the Bethel Black Lives Matter demonstration, held in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd, made national news. About 80 social justice demonstrators—Ryan D. Wheelz included— were overrun by “some 700 counterprotestors,” reports the Washington Post, “members of motorcycle gangs, ‘back the blue’ groups and proponents of the Second Amendment… Some carried rifles, a local news station reported, while others brought baseball bats and clubs.” Wheelz circulated his response: “I hope that the photo lets people of color know that despite popular stereotypes, they have the love and support of many people in rural communities. I also hope it lets people know that it’s OK to change your opinion when you’re presented with new evidence that clearly shows you were wrong.”