Last weekend added another chapter in the history of racial terrorism against Black people in America.
Payton Gendron, 18, drove three hours from his home in Conklin, N.Y. (south of Binghamton) to a Tops Friendly Market in the majority Black neighborhood of East Buffalo and shot and killed 10 people and wounded three.
The ten victims—Roberta Drury, Margus Morrison, Andre Mackneil, Aaron Salter, Geraldine Talley, Celestine Chaney, Heyward Patterson, Katherine Massey, Pearl Young and Ruth Whitfield—ranged from 32 to 86 years old. The three wounded—Zaire Goodman, Jennifer Warrington and Christopher Braden—are between ages 20 and 55. Salter, a former police officer who was currently working as a security guard at Tops, died while shooting back at Gendron trying to stop the attack.
Gendron, who was covered in body armor and military gear, threatened to shoot himself when the police arrived but was persuaded down and eventually arrested.
Meg Newman Stackman, a Buffalo public school teacher, has close ties to the shooting. Particularly to Morrison. “I’ve worked in this community for 17 years,” said the East Aurora, N.Y. native.
“Blocks away from Tops that so many former students and their families work and shop at. This was my student’s father. It’s devastating to her and her siblings, and to the community. Today was hard and the rest of the days will be too, but we are the students’ safe space and need to rise to the occasion, as we always do.
“People ask me where I work and I say the east side and they just brush it off as if it’s something they can’t be bothered with,” Stackman continued. “Now they want to send thoughts, prayers and condolences.”
The National Action Network has offered to pay for any additional expenses for the funerals of the 10 victims that the State Office of Victim Services can’t pick up. The state can cover funeral expenses of up to $6,000.
Janai S. Nelson, president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund (LDF), stated that Black people remain at the front of the line as victims of racial terror.
“This horrific rampage is another in the long line of distinctly American mass shootings that combine racism and gun violence,” said Nelson. “This is a deepening crisis for which we must be prepared to make all the necessary sacrifices to peacefully bring to an end the scourge of hate. Black Americans are the leading targets for hate crimes in our country, but we also continue to witness increases in anti-semitic attacks, as well as violence against the Latino, Asian, Muslim, and LGBTQ+ communities.”
Gendron live streamed the shooting on Twitch and other social media outlets. While the clip was taken down, it continues to circulate online.
“The frequency and intensity of this violence has been supercharged in part by social media, which provides a virtually unchecked platform for hate speech and the encouragement of violent actions,” said Nelson. “And, as we have seen by the number of attacks that have been live streamed, a built-in audience for hate.”
New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul expressed similar sentiments during several news conferences. “The fact that this act of barbarism, this execution of innocent human beings, could be live streamed on social media platforms, and not taken down within a second says, to me, that there is a responsibility out there,” said the governor. Hochul also said that there would be a “comprehensive gun package” introduced in the state legislature to close any loopholes in the state’s current gun control laws.
Several highly publicized racially (and religiously) motivated mass shootings have occurred in America. In 2019, John Earnest shot at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in the San Diego area, injuring three and killing one. That same year, Patrick Crusius allegedly killed 23 and injured close to the same amount of people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas motivated by a desire to kill Latinos; he’s currently in custody but has yet to stand trial. Another shooting in 2019 involved Brenton Tarrant who attacked two mosques in a New Zealand killing, in total, 51 worshippers and injuring 40 others. Tarrant posted his plans for the shooting on the website 4chan.
In 2018, Robert Bowers killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Before Saturday’s shooting, the last highly publicized attack against Black people was in 2015 when white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
The shootings don’t include police brutality and acts of violence of any kind against Black people. To the Congressional Black Caucus, all violence against Black people must be addressed.
“This story is not new; we’ve seen this play out repeatedly. But we are very clear, thoughts and prayers are not enough,” stated CBC Chairwoman Joyce Beatty. “Firstly, gun violence is a public health crisis that must be addressed, and we must legislate as such. Secondly, vigilantes acting with racial animus and espousing white supremacist ideology that results in the loss of innocent lives must be classified as a hate crime, full stop. Last year, more than 20,000 Americans lost their lives to gun violence. In the aftermath of this horrific episode, Congress has a moral obligation to make our nation fairer and safer for all Americans.”
Locally, politicians were quick to express condolences and condemn racial radicalization and easy access to guns.
“There is no place in New York for hate and white supremacy or any other hate-based ideology,” stated New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “This targeted attack against Black Americans is not a new phenomenon in this country, and now is the time that we as a nation come together to confront this hatred.”
“This week the CDC announced that 45,000 people were killed by gun violence in 2020, a tragic record and an indictment of our failures on all levels of government to combat this crisis and save lives,” stated New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. “45,000 lives lost and families devastated—a number so massive in scope that it can almost seem abstract, but the pain these families and communities feel is intense, acute, urgent.
“The threat of gun violence in our subways, our supermarkets, on our streets, will continue until we can finally, meaningfully address both the systems that enable individuals to perpetrate senseless violence and the weapons that enable such suffering,” continued Williams.
On Tuesday U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visited Buffalo to mourn the victims of the shooting. The president acted as consoler-in-chief to grieving families, which has been a dominant strain in Biden’s tenure when took office in the throes of the COVID-19 epidemic.
The shooting also comes as pundits believe the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court could potentially allow concealed carry in all states. New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. vs. Bruen challenges the state’s ability to deny petitioners applications for concealed-carry licenses for self-defense, claiming it violates the 2nd Amendment. New York State currently operates under the NY SAFE Act, which stops the mentally ill from buying guns and fights against the distribution of illegal weapons. While the language of the SAFE Act specifies that the state will not deny a person’s ability to bear arms and/or sell and buy weapons, the Bruen case challenges the state having any laws at all.
While the country struggles to deal with gun control, authorities are struggling to curtail the radicalization of white kids online.
“As these events continue to become normalized, it is up to us to ensure that we educate our community to work towards ending racism and gun violence,” stated New York City Council Member Farah Louis (D-Brooklyn). “By dismantling oppressive culture variables, our communities will be stronger than ever. At this time, I ask you all to join me in prayer for those affected by these tragic events.”
Grendon wrote an online manifesto before traveling to East Buffalo to commit acts of murders. In the 180-page screed, he thanked the website 4chan, and its community, for radicalizing him and cited the Great Replacement Theory that’s at the core of white supremacists’ beliefs.
The theory originates with books written by French nationalist Maurice Barres in the early 20th century and was reintroduced to this generation through the writings of Renaud Camus. In a 2011 essay titled “Le Grand Remplacement,” Camus expresses his belief that native white Europeans are being replaced in their countries by African, Middle Easterners and immigrants.
According to the March of Dimes Foundation, between 2018 and 2020, 52.1% of live births were white. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2020, 1.8 millions of 3.6 million live births were white.
Camus believes that white people are lagging behind the non-white population in birth rates globally, and this will eventually lead to the extinction of the white race. In the United States, anti-semitic white supremacists blame Jews for non-whites immigrating to this country further emphasizing the “great replacement” theory in their eyes. This explains the chants of “Jews will not replace us” and
“You will not replace us” on University of Virginia’s campus the Friday night before August 2017’s Unite the Right rally.
Another white supremacist mantra is known as “the 14 words,” which read, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
A writer who groups like the Anti-Defamation League blame for the current crop of white supremacists is Jean Raspail, author of the 1973 novel “The Camp of the Saints.” In the book, Raspail writes about an invasion of non-whites from Africa, the Middle East and India into France and “the world” overwhelming the white population while being welcomed with open arms by naïve liberals who don’t realize they’re being preyed upon. The book helped create the fear of the end of “Western exceptionalism” among supremacists while mainstream conservatives have also uttered that phrase.
You can buy the paperback of “The Camp of the Saints” on Amazon.
In the “customers who viewed this item also viewed” section of the page you can find “The Bell Curve,” the infamous book released in 1996 that discusses intelligence and its possible ties to class and race.
Some social justice groups are pushing Biden to take extreme right wingers head-on and convene a national summit addressing extremism.
“All of us deserve to feel safe, especially as we move about in our communities and interact with our neighbors in places we all congregate, such as a supermarket,” stated Nikitra Bailey, senior vice president of public policy of the National Fair Housing Alliance. “We must come together as a nation and find ways to stamp out the hatred that led a gunman to target and terrorize a community—apparently because that’s where African Americans live.”
Bailey also relayed the fact that the area the market is located is 97% Black and has had difficulty obtaining fresh, healthy food. Tops was one of the few places in the neighborhood that provided such. For the time being, the shooting and its investigation have made the neighborhood a food desert. However, Gov. Hochul said that rideshare companies Uber and Lyft will provide residents free rides to and from other grocery stores. Those who reside in the zip codes 14208 and 14209 can receive a free ride to a Tops Friendly Markets located on 425 Niagara St. and a Price Rite located on 250 Elmwood Ave. BuffaloLyftUp is the code for residents to get $25 off on the app and SHOPBUF is the code to get at least $20 off per ride on Uber. Users can take advantage of the deal for a maximum of eight rides.
Another issue that conservatives like Fox News pundit Laura Ingraham have pointed to is mental health. Mental health is always mentioned after a shooting, but Schroeder Stribling, president and CEO of Mental Health America, wanted to remind the public that mental health has nothing to do with racial hatred.
“We live in a time where these acts of violence occur far too often and with enormous hate as the motivator,” Stribling said in an emailed statement. “Our nation’s BIPOC communities continue to disproportionately face such violence, and it must stop. Let me be clear: Hate is not a mental health condition.
“In the shadow of such a heinous act, the cracks in our system become ever more apparent: Our communities need more clinicians of color,” Stribling continued. “Getting help for mental health struggles must happen sooner, and it should not be stigmatized.”
The shooting, while standing at the intersection of race, gun control, food deserts and radicalization, race is the name of the game…and one person is tired of it.
Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP, took to social media to let his frustrations with the current state of race relations in America known.
“Only in America can a white supremacist buy a gun, kill 10 people in a racially motivated massacre, get arrested peacefully…all with absolutely no action from Congress to prevent the next act of domestic terrorism,” said Johnson. “Black people are tired. Tired doesn’t mean defeated. We’re gonna fight like hell because our sons, daughters, brothers, sister, parents and loved ones are being shot and killed by white supremacists every day #BuffaloShooting.”