An 18-year-old white male, Payton Gendron, has been arrested and stands accused of killing 10 people and injuring three others at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday, May 14 – a venue where Blacks both make up the greatest percentage of shoppers and count as the majority of those who died.
Once again, Americans find themselves attempting to grapple with our nation’s latest example of senseless and unprovoked violence. This time, the dead include grandmothers, fathers, sons and sisters whose only “crime” would be picking up essential groceries for their families. The victims in the shooting included a former police officer and a beloved wife and grandmother who served as the primary caretaker for her husband who lives in a nursing facility.
The names of the 10 who died, ranging in age from 32 to 86, include: Celestine Chaney, 65; Roberta Drury, 32; Andre Mackneil, 53; Katherine Massey, 72; Margus Morrison, 52; Heyward Patterson, 67; and Aaron Salter, 55.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown called the massacre an unimaginable nightmare, while Erie County Sheriff John Garcia framed the onslaught as pure evil.
Put plainly, the deadly shooting by Gendron whose lengthy manifesto revealed his desire to cleanse the country of Black people, represents another example of America’s lingering hate.
It also shows how hateful rhetoric — spewed over national news outlets and on social media and via the dog whistles of politicians — has usurped most of the progress made in race relations since the Civil Rights Movement more than a half-century ago.
“Law enforcement is proceeding with its investigation but what is clear is that we are seeing an epidemic of hate across our country that has been evidenced by acts of violence and intolerance. We must call it out and condemn it,” Vice President Kamala Harris said.
“Racially-motivated hate crimes or acts of violent extremism are harms against all of us and we must do everything we can to ensure that our communities are safe from such acts,” she asserted.
Details of the shooter’s 180-page manifesto revealed troubling perceptions that the self-avowed, white supremacist possessed. He complained of the dwindling size of the white population and alluded to his fears of ethnic and cultural replacement of white people.
Gendron described himself as a fascist, a white supremacist and an anti-Semite who, while some may find it difficult to believe, even live-streamed his shooting spree. However, despite his actions now captured on tape, he pleaded not guilty during his first appearance in court earlier this week.
“While past violent white supremacist attacks seem to have factored into this heinous act, we must acknowledge that extremist rhetoric espoused by some media and political leaders on the right promoting theories that vilify or dehumanize segments of our society like ‘the great replacement theory’ is a factor too,” wrote U.S. House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson in a statement.
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell added that the organization condemns both the white supremacist terrorist attack targeting Black men and women in Buffalo and the racist rhetoric that has sparked such violence.
“The constant repetition of white supremacist conspiracy theories on social media and even mainstream media outlets have led to horrific violence in places as distant as Christchurch, El Paso, Oslo and Charleston,” Mitchell asserted. “Those who promote racism, white supremacy, antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry must be held accountable for the violence they inspire.”
Mitchell added that CAIR has often spoken out against those who promote the “great replacement” and other racist conspiracy theories.
Mayor Brown told reporters that Gendron surveilled both the community and the grocery store as part of the planning of the attack. Brown said the teen surveilled the area for several days and targeted a busy place in an area predominantly populated by Black people.
His manifesto noted that, “Zip code 14208 in Buffalo has the highest Black percentage that is close enough to where I live.”
According to the U.S. Census, the zip code is 78 percent Black and among the top 2 percent of zip codes nationwide with the highest percentage of Black population. It has the highest percentage of Black population of any zip code in upstate New York.
“Well, this manifesto tells everything to us. And that is what’s so bone chilling about it is that there is the ability for people to write and subscribe to such philosophies filled with hate,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said.
She also expressed concerns that white supremacist acts of terrorism continue to be fermented on social media.
“To think, this live-streamed, military-style execution occurred on the streets of my hometown,” she said.
President Biden Travels to Buffalo, Condemns Racist Ideology of Shooter
On Tuesday, May 17, President Joe Biden, traveling with the first lady, Jill Biden, to Buffalo, called the mass shooting an act of domestic terrorism and condemned the alleged shooter’s racist-laden ideology.
“White supremacy is a poison. It’s a poison .. . running through our body politic,” Biden said, adding that silence is “complicity.”
“And it’s been allowed to grow and fester right before our eyes,” he continued. “No more, no more. We need to say as clearly and as forcefully as we can that the ideology of White supremacy has no place in America. None.”
Biden also spoke on gun violence in America while in Buffalo.
In 2022 alone, according to the Gun Violence Archive, America has witnessed more than 198 mass shootings – that is when four people or more are shot, excluding the shooter.
Biden said while executive action would yield limited results, he does hope “to convince Congress that we should go back to what I passed years ago.”
Meaningful gun reform, Biden added, is “going to be very difficult, but I’m not going to give up trying.”