On Saturday, May 14 2022, a gunman drove 200 miles to Buffalo, NY to carry out a terror attack specifically against Black people in the only grocery store located in a community of color. The gunman shot 13 people, 11 of whom were Black and 10 of whom died from their wounds. Beyond the shock and grief that we all feel upon learning about another act of senseless violence, there are several ways this act of violence can be understood.
One focus centers on the availability of guns and other assault weaponry in the United States. Understandably, large numbers of people will be calling for heightened gun control laws, pointing to ready availability of guns in the community and the numerous instances in which attackers easily procure weapons with little to no checks and go on murderous campaigns.
A different focus, however, should be given to the White Supremacy movement, which infects its followers with racism, hate and bigotry. While our country has an entrenched history with White Supremacy dating back to its founding, the past 7 years has seen a dramatic increase in ethnically or racially motivated attacks around the world. These include attacks in the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, and Germany. In the United States, such attacks have occurred in South Carolina, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, California, and Texas – to name a few. Despite targeting a range of minorities, the manifestos and ideological motivations of these attackers are increasingly similar.
While it is true that these racist and hateful ideas percolate on fringe online forums, chatrooms, and other unmoderated places on the internet, increasingly such divisive and far-right ideology is entering the psyches of the general population through cable news programs and social media platforms.
Over the past two plus years, we have witnessed firsthand the devastation of COVID infections, and the reality is that, unchecked, these ideologies are contagious and just as deadly. President Biden called White supremacy a poison. It does not remain focused on a specific group, and it is never satisfied by accommodation. For example, this notion of “Replacement Theory” that was endorsed by the Buffalo shooter originated in the 1900’s but has become much more of a unifying and destructive force as the phrase was brought into the mainstream by right wing conservatives and media. The continued use of the phrase has apparently increased its power, mutated if you will, to fuel hateful actions.
This week, civil rights activist Shaun King said, “It’s not enough to say that you are disturbed and you hear the pain and feel the pain of this city…There is deep change that actually has to happen here.” While Winchester is hundreds of miles from Buffalo, we all feel the impact of this shooting, and we can all take tangible steps to ensure that such heinous acts do not happen again. In June, the Network will offer a new signature workshop focused exclusively on allyship. This workshop goes beyond the content offered in our Disrupting Racism series to explore each of our identities and understand how to uplift our fellow humans across different contexts and in different situations. Hate and racism are contagious, yes, but so is compassion and kindness.
Friend of the NFSJ, Alon Burstein, contributed to this piece.