The Buffalo mass shooting comes amid a surge in racial violence across the US | US News
The story is now sickeningly familiar. From Charleston to El Paso, from Pittsburgh to San Diego and from Christchurch, New Zealand, to the latest horror scene in Buffalo, New York, each of these mass shootings has a common thread running through it: white supremacy.
As investigators begin to piece together the details of Saturday’s Tops Friendly Market massacre that claimed the lives of 10 people, the killer’s motivation already seems to have little in doubt.
The perpetrator appears to be a radicalized, lonely white gunman, fueled by racial hatred fueled by extremist theories rife around the internet, who armed himself heavily and determined to kill as many people as he did, over a predominantly black community in Buffalo, New York.
The suspect, Payton Gendron, 18, is said to have etched a racial slur onto the barrel of his assault rifle before live-streaming himself and gunning down grocery shoppers, supermarket workers and a security guard.
Authorities said he also posted a lengthy “manifesto” on social media, with frequent references to a racist “white replacement” theory as justification for what they described as “hate crimes and racially motivated violent extremism.”
Joe Biden, numerous American politicians and community and civil rights leaders, including the Reverend Al Sharptonwere quick to express their outrage and demanded that more be done to combat the rise in hate crimes in the US.
But it’s a problem that’s gotten worse in recent years, largely cultivated in the cauldron of the internet’s darkest reaches, and eagerly seized upon by those only too willing to turn the warped ideology into violence.
The FBI reported last year that hate crimes in the US had risen to a 12-year high, fueled largely by a spate of attacks on black and Asian Americans. And while mass killings like those in Buffalo and elsewhere understandably get the most attention, many thousands of other violent hate-based attacks take place each year, prompting Attorney General Merrick Garland to make domestic terrorism and racist hate crimes “a top priority” for the Ministry of Justice.
“Hate and racism have no place in America,” Derrick Johnson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said in a statement after the Buffalo attack.
“We are shocked, extremely upset and pray for the families and loved ones of the victims and for the entire community.”
The Buffalo parallels are significant not only with the August 2019 murder of 21 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, but also with countless other shootings involving a radicalized, lone assailant.
In El Paso, the shooter, a 21-year-old white man, also posted a document online to extremist online message board 8chan, saying the attack in the border town was “in response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Four years earlier, an avowed white supremacist killed nine people in an attack on a black congregational church in Charleston, South Carolina.
In October 2018, a white man in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania shouted “All Jews must die” as he stormed into the Tree of Life synagogue, shooting dead 11 worshipers and injuring six others. Police later found anti-Semitic social media posts by the killer.
And a similar shooting occurred in April 2019 at a synagogue in San Diego, California, when one person died and several others were injured by a 19-year-old who also sent messages about racial hatred to 8chan.
The San Diego killer claimed he was motivated by attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, a month earlier, in which a white supremacist murdered 51 Muslims. Investigators there quickly discovered that the killer had been radicalized online, published his own manifesto of hatred and live-streamed the killings.
For Sharpton, the veteran civil rights activist and TV host, the recent attack in Buffalo is an urgent call to action.
“President Biden should host a White House meeting with Black, Jewish and Asian leaders to underscore the federal government’s escalating efforts against hate crimes,” he said in a tweet.
“These hate crimes must be met with a united front against hate-based violence.”
Buffalo’s mayor, meanwhile, said Sunday he believes the killings in his city will prove to be a “watershed moment.”
“I would like to see proper gun control. I would like to see an end to hate speech online and on social media. It’s not free speech. That’s not the American way,” Byron Brown said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“We are not a nation of haters. We are not a nation of hate. We must send the message that there is no place for hate speech, hate indoctrination and the dissemination of hate manifestations on the Internet.
“I will be a stronger voice for that. I believe what happened yesterday in Buffalo, New York will mark a turning point. I think after that it will be different in terms of the energy and the activity that we see.”