Tops Friendly Market at 1275 Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo, NY. (Google Maps)
Tops Friendly Market at 1275 Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo, NY.

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Shooter kills 10, wounds 3 leaves behind questions, anger, grief

May 16, 2022

An 18-year old white male gunman killed 10 people and injured three at a Topps grocery store in Buffalo New York May 14. He documented the start of the violence on a video feed and left behind a white supremecist manifesto. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called the deadly mass shooting in Buffalo an “act of barbarism” and an “execution.”

It is one of the deadliest racist massacres in recent U.S. history.

Buffalo shooting leaves feelings of dread

It makes me disgusted that Payton Gendron decided that he could walk into a supermarket and start shooting.

This shows that personalized social media and delusion allowed him to think that his opinion was what was actually happening (POC taking over white people’s jobs). The fact that he planned to shoot at Tops because of the a high rate of people of color who shop there is scary.

It makes me lose hope that we are progressing as a society and brings a sinking feeling to my stomach.

It feels like a dream where we hear about the same things again and again that we have become normalized to it and unless the perpetrator does something this extreme we won’t react. Gendron makes me feel chills up and down my body that someone can have so much hate build inside them. His lack of education and awareness astounds me that he can be high school educated yet still blind to a basic moral compass.

It seems that most people cannot understand the balance of harmony in their lives and empathy towards other people.

It makes me tired to have to see the same thing again and feel like I am stuck in the endless cycle of not being able to do anything; I feel insignificant to the bigger movements and I am patiently waiting for my chance to educate those who are naive. Then again, it should not have to be my job to educate them: they should be curious and want to educate themselves.

Broadcasted extremism adds to the problem

The shooting in Buffalo was an act of racist extremism, but the same sentiments that are held by the shooter are also given airtime within the American right, just in a more palatable way.

The Buffalo shooter is aligned with The Great Replacement Theory, an extremist belief that people of color are “replacing” the influence of white voters in the United States. Conservative talk show host Tucker Carlson has spent significant time talking about this belief, and gone as far as to say that liberal immigration policies are there in order to gather more blue votes, and “replace” white conservative ones.

Disguising these extreme beliefs as political commentary creates legitimacy for far-right extremism, and the online communities that host these views, like the ones the Buffalo shooter was a part of.

The shooter’s internet activity and previous behavior shows that he had a fascination with previous racist rampages, inspired by the replacement theory.

Hate groups lurk in the dark corners of the internet, knowing that they are being watched, but when watered-down versions of their sentiments are being broadcasted on live television available to any American, and when members of our electoral bodies are spewing their messages, they will not go away, they will only grow. But, stopping hate will not fix the damage that has been done, and stop future harm to communities of color.

We grieve with East Buffalo, but if the nation’s attention only comes after massacres and tragedies, what help are we giving the communities that are targeted by hate groups and even current commentators and politicians?

Communities that suffer from systemic racism and segregation, that the nation only turns its eyes to when they get shot up as a result. Don’t think racism in America is only white supremacist mass shootings like Buffalo. Racism in America still permeates deep into political discussion, national attention, and individual views that wouldn’t even be categorized as extreme.

Compass provides grounding but little direction

I thought about the Courageous Conversations compass on my way to work today. I hate that it most often comes to mind when topics of race come crashing into my daily life, in my social media feed, on the front page of the news but I’m also grateful that it offers a touchpoint in these moments, which are all too frequent.

Am I grieving?
Are my questions analytical or values-based?
What action can I take?

The answer is somewhere in every quadrant at any given time, and that’s when I need to find the ways to contain what could become a swirl. Maybe it’s 10 minutes on The Buffalo News, learning the names of grocery shoppers who paid with their lives for completing a Saturday morning chore. Maybe it’s NPR to understand more about white replacement and, in the process, to learn that 1 in 3 Americans believe in some form of it, according to an AP study released last month.

Everywhere I read questions about who is responsible: The conservative media? The political right? Lack of social media and livestream control? Inadequate mental health support? COVID-19 isolation?

Or does it all run back to slavery and a deeply rooted belief that somehow skin color is the single determinant of our humanity?

This is where my feelings place on the Compass might add a few expletives to the writing as my anger overtakes my ability to craft feeling into words, and I ground myself in names:

Aaron. Ruth. Pearl. Celestine. Roberta. Heyward. Margus. Andre. Geraldine. Katherine.

As a nation, I already know that we will move from shock and anger to grief and memorial — much faster than the families of the 10 dead will — but then what? Will this be the time that things are different? Will this be a moment for true healing? Will this be the moment for meaningful change?

Or will this become just one more shooting, one more white man, one more fringe incident until the next one and the next and the next?

Our politicians need to decide if we will continue to hide hate crimes in Amendment protections. Our cable media needs to decide whether ratings are worth creating a petri dish of lies. Our social channels need to decide how much oversight private businesses have when their existence has a public consequence. We need to decide.

On the Courageous Conversations compass, that’s a values place, a doing place, a call to action. And even as I write it, I know I’m not ready to go there yet. I see it, but right now the feelings place has me rooted to the news, longing to understand, hoping for better.

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