I have been brooding over the implications of the racist massacre in Buffalo.
The facts are not in dispute.A teenage White Supremacist drove over 200 miles so that he could kill Black people who would be shopping in a supermarket located in a predominantly Black neighborhood. He killed 10 people and wounded three others. Reports tell us that this particular mass shooting was the deadliest in the United States so far this year.
This year. We’re 19 weeks in, and according to NPR, America has already had 198 mass shootings.
The 18-year-old shooter, Payton S. Gendron, livestreamed the gruesome attack as he mowed down shoppers and store employees.
Why would an 18-year-old drive to a neighborhood where he knew no one, specifically in order to kill people who had done him no harm? According to multiple reports, a manifesto he had authored and posted online repeatedly invoked the racist charge that white Americans were at risk of being “replaced” by people of color.
The New York Times newsletter described his entrance into the supermarket.
Around 2:30 p.m., as shoppers filled the Tops supermarket, the suspect arrived wearing body armor, tactical gear and a helmet with a video camera attached. He carried an assault rifle with an anti-Black slur written on the barrel and began firing in the parking lot. Three victims were killed outside, and one was wounded.
And as to motive…
The attack appeared to be inspired by earlier mass shootings motivated by racial hatred, including a 2019 mosque shooting in New Zealand and a massacre at a Texas Walmart that same year, according to the manifesto.
In chilling detail, the document outlined a plan to kill as many Black people as possible, including the type of gun to use, a timeline, a specific parking spot and where to eat ahead of time.
Gendron wrote that he chose the area of the supermarket because it was home to the largest percentage of Black residents near his home in New York’s largely white Southern Tier.
So here we are. Some 80% of voters want additional controls on gun purchases, but rather than imposing reasonable restrictions or improving background checks, extremist politicians in states like Indiana continue to relax existing gun regulations. That permissiveness allows mental cases, domestic abusers and avowed racists access to weapons that should be limited to military use, permitting deranged shooters to inflict far more death and destruction than would otherwise be possible.
According to one report, Gendron was very heavily armed. He had tactical gear, a bulletproof vest and a tactical helmet, along with the camera that allowed him to livestream what he was doing. His firearms included a semi-automatic rifle, a hunting rifle and a shotgun, which were all purchased legally.
As stupid and unforgivable as Americans’ gun fetish is, it is White Supremacist hatred that is most horrific. This twisted young man killed people based on the color of their skin. These weren’t people he knew, people who might have somehow angered him. They were just “other”–and somewhere in his misbegotten life, he had come to believe that the mere existence of people with skin color unlike his own constituted an injury so great, so monumental, he would be justified in eradicating it.
We will undoubtedly hear from the defenders of an imagined version of the Second Amendment that the problem isn’t guns, it’s mental illness. Rational individuals will respond that (1) most people suffering from mental illness are not dangerous, and (2) giving easy access to deadly weapons to the people who do display murderous impulses is its own form of insanity.
Racist domestic attacks have been increasing, along with all the other signs of a disintegrating national culture. It isn’t as if we couldn’t see this coming; over a year ago, an article in The Guardian reported
Racially motivated extremists pose the most lethal domestic terrorism threats to the US, according to an unclassified intelligence report that warned that the threats could grow this year.
The blunt assessment, in a report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, echoes warnings made by US officials, including the FBI director, Christopher Wray, who testified earlier this month that the threat from domestic violent extremism was “metastasizing” across the country.
Meanwhile, American government is gridlocked by a combination of obsolete political systems and the devolution of the GOP into a racist, misogynist cult intent on reversing fifty-plus years of human rights progress.
It’s hard not to agree with a bystander interviewed by the Guardian
“I do know that this isn’t the first time this has happened in America, so this will be pretty much the same,” said Lewis. “There will be candles, probably have a march, some preaching. But nothing that needs to be done is going to be done.”
Unfortunately, he’s probably right.