Center for Policing Equity Issues Statement on the Mass Shooting Targeting Black People in Buffalo, NY

May 16, 2022

Center for Policing Equity -  

New Haven, CT – Today, The Center for Policing Equity Released the Following Statement on the Mass Shooting Targeting Black People in Buffalo, NY:

We received the news of Saturday’s mass murder with horror, sadness, and rage. Yet another act of grotesque anti-Black violence took place at the Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, NY where ten people were slaughtered, eight of them Black. Our deepest condolences go out to the loved ones of all those senselessly murdered by a White supremacist who traveled to Buffalo in order to target Black people. We send our wishes for a full recovery to those injured and hold in our thoughts the communities of Buffalo that must now live with the trauma of Saturday's terrorism.

Payton Gendron–an 18-year-old White man clad in military gear, carrying a weapon with an anti-Black racial slur scrawled on its barrel, and livestreaming the attack on Twitch–systematically targeted Black shoppers in the heart of a majority Black community. His intentions were clear and must be seen in the context of a long and unbroken history of anti-Black terrorism. Like this year's bomb threats against historically Black colleges and universities, 2019's rash of arsons of Black churches, or Dylan Roof's massacre of nine Black people at the Emanuel African Methodist Church in 2015, this most recent tragedy shocks, but does not surprise. 

The racist, xenophobic views that Gendron expressed in an online manifesto must also be seen in the context of incendiary rhetoric that is all-too readily allowed to flourish both here and abroad. Gendron drew inspiration from past massacres, including the mosque attacks in New Zealand, a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh. Like the Tree of Life shooter before him, the Buffalo terrorist was heavily influenced by "The Great Replacement" theory, an unhinged conspiracy often regurgitated on neo-Nazi websites and broadcast routinely on Fox News by host Tucker Carlson. The delusional theory holds that White Americans are at risk of being deliberately "replaced" by Jews, immigrants, and people of color. A set piece of the early 20th century narrative that White people are under threat of replacement, there has been a horrifying resurgence of the conspiracy, with nearly half of all registered Republicans recently saying that they agree with parts of “The Great Replacement” theory. The result is a national climate entirely hostile to vulnerable Black communities and one in which most of our national leaders have failed utterly to form words—let alone policies—to address it effectively.

The kind of White supremacy that drove Gendron is centuries old, but in today's world, it is easy to find it expressed digitally and proliferating at an alarming rate thanks to loosening societal norms on hate speech online. Furthermore, fearmongering continues to be used by politicians to criminalize innocent people based on the color of their skin in an effort to enact dangerous anti-migrant policies.  And yet, even as the national conversation around abortion rights and birth rates makes plain that there are many who openly believe the U.S. needs more White people and fewer Black and Brown folks, those charged with regulating our digital safety are promising to roll back the few protections recently put into place.

Given all the resources pouring into keeping the internet unregulated and all the resources that local, state, and federal authorities are ready to pour into punitive solutions that often resist targeting White supremacists, we must pose a simple question: What resources is the nation willing to commit to fixing the problem rather than making it worse? Can we even imagine a nation that devotes as much time and capital to remedying racist terrorism as it does to ensuring the right to further it? We must look beyond today's language of consolation to see what those in power are actually doing. Offers of prayer made even while removing protections is a promise of faith without works. It is a spiritual death that leads directly to Black death. 

It is common after tragic events like this to hear elected officials intone that "This is not who we are" or, "We are better than this." Today, we ask anyone making such claims to show us the evidence. When in our nation’s history have we been better? 

If those professing the nation's moral superiority cannot—as we at CPE cannot—provide compelling evidence that events like yesterday's massacre stand outside the nation's character, then let claims to our collective innocence lay silent. Such dishonesty has been our inheritance throughout this country's existence; to indulge in it now will only pave the way for the next bloody act of White supremacist violence. Let the people of the nation at least be honest if our leaders cannot be courageous.  

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About Center for Policing Equity: As a research and action organization, Center for Policing Equity (CPE) produces analyses identifying and reducing the causes of racial disparities in law enforcement. Using evidence-based approaches to social justice, we use data to create levers for social, cultural and policy change. Center for Policing Equity also holds a 501(c)3 status.