I am writing this down today because I don’t want to have an excuse to say I don’t really remember, but it was awful.
I don’t want to forget that, with each mass shooting – each more brutal than the last – there are real lives affected and serious, eternal ripple effects from which some will never, in this lifetime, wholly recover.
On Saturday, May 14, 2022, an 18-year-old white supremacist drove 200 miles (two hundred miles) from his home to Buffalo, New York. He had already cased out a local community grocery store, selected for its clientele: people of color. He visited the store, making diagrams, taking note of skin color, planning his lethal attack.
He then returned the following day and opened fire. Here are the names of 10 people who were killed. I’m listing them so I won’t forget:
- Roberta A. Drury of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 32
- Margus D. Morrison of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 52
- Andre Mackneil of Auburn, N.Y. – age 53
- Aaron Salter of Lockport, N.Y. – age 55
- Geraldine Talley of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 62
- Celestine Chaney of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 65
- Heyward Patterson of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 67
- Katherine Massey of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 72
- Pearl Young of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 77
- Ruth Whitfield of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 86
Three people suffered injuries:
- Zaire Goodman of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 20 (treated and released from ECMC)
- Jennifer Warrington of Tonawanda, N.Y. – age 50 (treated and released from ECMC)
- Christopher Braden of Lackawanna, N.Y. – age 55
This is no longer news; everybody is weary from the reporting. It has become just another story about the hatefulness we see growing out of control, becoming more emboldened by every incident.
I cannot untangle the knots of feelings I have to rank my outrage and sadness…
- The fact that more than half of the victims could have been grandparents. I break down just thinking of how my grands would grieve if something so violent happened to any of their beloved elders.
- The fact that the shooter was “inspired” by previous mass killings, that he was proud of his white-supremacist posture, that he was radicalized by online conspiracy theories, including “the great replacement.*” A belief – at one time considered beyond the pale – that has become a talking point for a prominent conservative news personality as well as others on the far (or perhaps not so far) right.
- The fact that he hunted and targeted people of color, many of whom reportedly lived selflessly, thinking more of their neighbors than themselves.
- The fact that he attempted to live-stream his self-initiated war against the unarmed and helpless, a horrific example of what happens when pride and cruelty collide.
- And, finally, it has not gone unnoticed that the young, white culprit was “captured without incident” – presumably with little more than hand-cuff marks or perhaps a scrape, bruise, or headache – while so many people of color are gunned down, beat up, tazed, or harassed because somebody perceived them as threats. Perceived them as dangerous simply because they are living black or brown in a world where it’s risky to be anything but pure white.
None in that list consistently rise to the top of my breaking point. Depending on who I’m with or talking to, depending on what I’m reading or what new details are released determine which tragic issue weighs heaviest on my heart.
And, at this point, I’m too tired to argue about something I consider a theory and others a national crisis. There is no point in bringing up the election, the price of gas or chicken, Putin or the war in Ukraine, or reproductive rights. The arguments are so beat up, they are barely recognizable and could not possibly benefit from any further attention.
But what makes me sad and a little scared is the failure to recognize a precarious and tragic position we have created: Us vs. Them.
The level of violence carried out by white supremacist increases and the acts become more and more grievous, despicable, and dehumanizing with every incident. But the one-note defense is “that was an isolated attack and there are always radicals. We aren’t all like that.”
Of course, we aren’t. We aren’t all anything, except for human. Unfortunately, however, celebrating the fact that this “lone wolf” (as some would try to describe him) was taken into custody without incident only brings to light the tendency some have to completely ignore the rampant examples of inequalities and racism. While we can applaud the restraint and concern demonstrated by Buffalo law enforcement, we must recognize the documented harm and indignity brought to people of color who, in many instances, have done nothing. at. all. to provoke instantaneous and severe treatment. Reports that would have us question if the same care and concern for the alleged shooter would have been granted had he been a man of color. Reports like this:
- Time: “While black people constitute 12% of the U.S. population, they constitute 33% of the prison population. Thus, black people are dramatically overrepresented in the country’s prisons and jails. Meanwhile, white people make up 64% of the U.S. population, but they make up just 30% of the prison population.”
- Harvard: “Black Americans are 3.23 times more likely than white Americans to be killed by police.”
- Vox: “Black people accounted for 31 percent of police killing victims in 2012, even though they made up just 13 percent of the US population.”
I got over being mad quite a while ago. It only served to spike my own heart rate and provide talking points for preaching to the choir.
Sad, on the other hand, is a puny word for how I exist emotionally when I allow myself to engage with news reports like that from Buffalo. And I’m not sad only because of the injustice and racial inequities.
I’m sad because there are people I know who quietly believe that some humans are more than others.
To be fair, I admit I have not been publicly or formally vocal about some of these issues. I have taken a ride-along position because I don’t have the skin thick enough to endure the ridicule and accusations I would surely encounter. It’s much easier and safer to applaud the words of others in the safety and quiet of my own family room.
And although I’ve said we need to talk about these things, so far (probably due to my rather insignificant following) I’ve had only one taker when I invited dialogue.
But I am broken-hearted to know that some silence is the result of an utter lack of concern for the disenfranchised and marginalized.
Worse than that, some of the silence reveals private concurrence with a “manifest-destiny” kind of philosophy, living out the lie that some of us are more than others, and therefore entitled to more and better and richer and safer.
My lovelies, 10 beautiful humans, loved by God and cherished by their families, were killed by a man-child who believed he had every right to maintain and/or regain his position at the top. He assumed the mind of God, determined what’s best for the country, and took the lead in a battle of his own making to perpetrate unspeakable evil and perpetuate the false reality that white supremacy is sanctioned by the Creator.
Truth be told, I have no answers and no unasked questions. I have no idea what could possibly happen that hasn’t already happened that would make any kind of difference at all.
But I’m praying for miracles and clear vision. I’m praying for love to win and truth to be revealed. And I can’t help but pray that outrageous goodness will sweep over the world and the best in all of us shows up at the same time, giving us the courage and willingness to get it together, work together, and live together in peace.
I can’t help it. Hope springs eternals. It has to.
And, as always, I wish for you
* The Great Replacement conspiracy theory is “a white supremacist tenet holding that white people are being replaced by people of color and, politically speaking, that Democrats are deliberately trying to flood the U.S. with immigrants in order to gain an electoral advantage.” And, even in the shadow of the Buffalo shooting, one of the more right-wing politicians brazenly supported this theory.