American Racism and the Buffalo Shooting

“Once startling and noteworthy, mass shootings have melded into the background of life in the U.S,” Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor writes in The New Yorker, noting that there have been roughly two hundred such shootings recorded in the country so far this year. Yet some events still have the ability to shock. On Saturday afternoon, an eighteen-year-old who allegedly posted a hundred-and-eighty page “manifesto” avowing white-supremacist beliefs opened fire at a grocery store in the primarily Black neighborhood of Masten, in Buffalo, hitting thirteen people and killing ten. Taylor, who was born in Buffalo, writes that the shooting “must be viewed within the context of the growing normalization of racism and political violence in the U.S.” Taylor examines the parallels between the shooter’s manifesto and the rhetoric of conservative figureheads, including Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson, and speaks with a local pastor, whose congregants were directly affected by the attack. “Many people were angry,” he says, and notes that the violence seems like a continuation of a broader trend of inequity that Black people in Masten have experienced. As Taylor writes, “For decades, Black life has been seen as disposable.”

Taylor writes: The shooter is alleged to have posted a hundred-and-eighty-page “manifesto” avowing white-supremacist beliefs. In the hate-filled text, he denounced immigrants and Black people as “replacers” of white people. The notion that white people are being replaced has recently moved from the fringe of far-right politics to mainstream Republican Party politics. The Fox News personality Tucker Carlson has helped to popularize the ideology, and it has dovetailed seamlessly with the rhetoric of the Republican Party, which has insisted on describing the arrival of migrants at the southern border—seeking entry into the U.S. as asylum seekers—as an “invasion.”

The Lackawanna comes and goes
Somewhere rows of weary hands suspended
from overhead parallel bars.
Sometime faces scurry by in magazines,
newspapers, intangible dreams,
…on Sunset Boulevard
Somewhere darkened brothers…
Sometime sweetened sisters…
Somewhere beaten by African sun,
Sometime immersed in the American sun

Irshad Salim, Hoboken, NJ. circa 1983

The shooter rationalized his vicious attack by trying to fit it into this grand, esoteric conspiracy of white replacement through immigration. His manifesto, by contrast, is filled with crudely racist memes about Black Americans. In fact, for all his denunciation of “replacers” in the manifesto, an archive of his posts on the messaging platform Discord, from the past six months, barely mentions immigrants. Instead, he writes prolifically and disparagingly about Black people, whom he incessantly describes with racial slurs. In a search of archived posts beginning in 2021, the word “immigrant” appears twelve times, “replacement” eighteen times, “replacer” twenty-two times, but “blacks” and the N-word each appear a hundred times.

The manifesto seems intended to confer a sense of intellectual sophistication on his savage act. But the shooter’s Discord posts are full of sophomoric, even banal stereotypes about Black people—as genetically inferior, as predisposed to crime. The shooter claims inspiration from the white supremacist who murdered fifty-one worshippers at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019. The Christchurch shooter also recorded his massacre and left a manifesto. But, for all of the Buffalo shooter’s professed inspiration from the Christchurch massacre, his actions seem to flow primarily from homegrown resentments. He searched by Zip Code for the largest Black population close to where he lived, in order to “kill as many blacks as possible.” His research led him to a grocery store, on the city’s East Side, along the Jefferson Avenue commercial corridor, running through the heart of Black Buffalo.

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