Challenging the Racist Beliefs That Fueled Buffalo’s Mass Shooter (Editorial Board Opinion)

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Buffalo is called the “city of good neighbors” for good reason. This sprawling, working-class city is more like a collection of distinct neighborhoods, built by successive waves of immigrants and activists in search of work and a better life. Syracuse can understand.

Today we feel a sense of solidarity among neighbors, as well as anger, grief and resolve, following a hate-inspired mass shooting on Saturday targeting black people at a neighborhood grocery store predominantly black on the east side of Buffalo.

Ten people died, including two linked to the New York center. Three others were injured. The shooter, an 18-year-old white man, had an elaborate plan to kill more black people but surrendered to police first.

The shooter traveled 200 miles from his home near Binghamton to execute his racist plan. It could have been our town. It could have been any city. This is the purpose of terrorism: to make people everywhere feel that nowhere is safe from murderous hatred.

Not a synagogue. Not a mosque. Not a church. Not a nightclub. Not a supermarket on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

There will be a lot of talk in the days and weeks to come about the shooter: his mental state; his straightforward journey to owning an assault-style weapon, even in a state with strict gun control laws; its ease in modifying the weapon to shoot more people; his ability to broadcast the rampage live on social media.

But let’s not pretend to ask why the shooter did this. We know why. Racism and white supremacy continue to thrive in this country – and not just in the darker corners of the internet where the shooter has called home. It is in broad daylight, in our political discourse.

Coated in coded language, right-wing politicians and pundits warn that white Americans are being “replaced” by immigrants, people of color and Jews. This so-called “big replacement theory” animated the Buffalo shooter, he wrote in a screed he posted online as he began his killing spree. Never mind that it makes no sense to blame African Americans whose ancestors were brought here as slaves. It doesn’t have to make sense. It is enough to enrage and inflame aggrieved people sensitive to racist beliefs and looking for a justification to commit violence.

Do not look away from the horror perpetrated in the name of white nationalism. Don’t absolve the irresponsible politicians whose rhetoric fueled the shooter’s grievance narrative. Do not remain silent in the face of racist remarks. Decide to challenge it – in the public square, at the ballot box, at home and in our own hearts.

The victims went to the store that day to buy a birthday cake or some strawberries or something for Sunday dinner, or to work as a lot attendant or a security guard. They were only targeted for the color of their skin.

Deepest sympathy to the families, friends and communities of Celestine Chaney, 65, of Buffalo; Roberta A. Drury, 32, of Buffalo and Syracuse; Andre Mackneil, 53, of Auburn; Katherine Massey, 72, of Buffalo; Margus D. Morrison, 52, of Buffalo; Heyward Patterson, 67, of Buffalo; Aaron Salter, of Lockport; Geraldine Talley, 62, of Buffalo; Ruth Whitfield, 86, of Buffalo; and Pearl Young, 77, of Buffalo.

A healing prayer goes out to the people of Buffalo. Locals tempered by harsh winters and decades of economic decline also know the “city of good neighbours” as the “city without illusions.” After Saturday, no more possible illusions.

About Syracuse.com Editorials

Editorials represent the collective opinion of Advance Media New York’s Editorial Board. Our opinions are independent of media coverage. Read our mission statement. Members of the editorial board are Tim Kennedy, Trish LaMonte, Katrina Tulloch and Marie Morelli.

To respond to this editorial: Send a letter or comment to letters@syracuse.com. Read our submission guidelines.

If you have any questions about the Opinions and Editorials section, contact Marie Morelli, Editorial/Opinion Manager, at mmorelli@syracuse.com


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