I was shocked! I was appalled! I was infuriated by the callous attack on innocent Black people at the Tops grocery store in Buffalo, New York! Without having to be told, when I heard the racial breakdown of the victims, I knew that it was a racially motivated hate crime. It was the same feeling I had after preliminary reports came from the shooting at the Mother Emmanuel Church in South Carolina. It was the same rage I experienced over and over again as I watched the video replays of Derek Chauvin murdering George Floyd. There are no words capable of describing the anger and emotion that erupts from me.
It is that innate ability to understand the nature of and react to a racist attack before, during and after the fact. It is the gnawing discomfort of wondering when, where and who the next attack will consume. These are all too frequently experienced emotions brought on by an all-too-frequent recurrence of racially motivated violence. We are repeatedly forced to experience the wanton waste of the human capital, wisdom, and experiences accumulated over the years of the lives of the victims.
The events at the store are a manifestation of the arrogance of racism. It is the arrogance of believing yourself to be a superior being. It is the arrogance of believing your life and your sensibilities to be of greater importance than those of the life/lives you steal. It is the arrogance of believing that you have the right to take something which you cannot give — life! It is the height of arrogance believing that God has endowed you with the authority to take one life — or 10. It is the arrogance of the slave-master, the slavecatcher, or the overseer who determines his/her victims to be a lower form of life worthy of being extinguished at a whim. Sadly, these murders are the immediate and physical manifestation of a reality that consumes us both subtly and overtly.
The same fear that informs that manner of cowardly, overtly racist hatred fuels the systemic and institutional discrimination which impedes social progress and access to an improved quality of life and life outcomes.
The racist arrogance that energized the physical attacks at the TOPS store is the same arrogance which promotes measures that erode the political strength of our communities. Subtly or otherwise, our votes are called irregular or illegitimate, and we fall victim to a variety of efforts to make us invisible or disappear completely. We saw this in the Republican/Trump efforts to invalidate the “urban” votes in the metro Philadelphia area and Atlanta/Fulton County in order to “flip” the 2020 presidential election results.
We are subjected to being summarily purged from voter rolls. We find ourselves subjected to inordinate waiting times in voter lines with draconian restrictions against giving or receiving comfort or relief while we wait. New laws that expand partisan access to polling places foretell increased voter harassment and intimidation. The “Polling Place Police” created by Florida Gov. DeSantis, a Trump wannabe, suggest a goon squad created to reduce “voting irregularities” in Florida’s communities of color. If not physical, these insidious attempts to negate our presence are “murderous” nonetheless.
The loss of the 10 sisters and brothers in Buffalo cannot be diminished. They were significant to all who knew and loved them, and they will be dearly missed. They are also significant to those of us who respect their lives and what they represent to our communities. Our fight to save our lives is never-ending and must be vigorous and successful.
Williams is president of the National Congress of Black Women.