On The Vine: This isn’t just about Buffalo

·4 min read

Sunday night I made a phone call I should have made many months ago, to my brother-in-law and my sister-in-law who live in Buffalo, New York, I had been meaning to call, to check in and catch up but, you know, life gets busy and that prolific thief, procrastination, steals the time we so wrongly think we have plenty of.

But on Sunday, I had to call, and the horrific attack that took place Saturday at a Buffalo grocery store where 10 Black Americans were gunned down prompted it. It was the act of an 18-year-old, self-proclaimed, white supremacist and fascist who believes the baseless conspiracy theory promoted by white nationalists and amplified by right-wing media, that white Americans are being replaced by Black and brown people.

Most of those killed were people like my in-laws, grandmothers and grandfathers. God-fearing, good people. Helpers in their community, just buying groceries.

My late husband was from Buffalo. His love of the city — despite its icy cold winters — and love for his-never-give-up-never-surrender Buffalo Bills was contagious. I find myself today rooting again for Buffalo to find some way to heal after such a disgusting and heart breaking display of racism.

But this isn’t just about Buffalo. The hate-violence in this country is so much more widespread than that and, as much as I hate to say it, showing no signs of slowing down, or wasting time. On the same day in Orange County, California at a Laguna Woods Church, a gunman targeted members of a Taiwanese community, killing one. In the summer of 2021 a white man targeting Asian women, killed 8 people at massage parlors in the Atlanta area. In August 2019 a white gunman, targeting members of a Hispanic community, killed 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. In October 2018 a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, yelled “All Jews must die,” then shot and killed 11 people there.

It’s unrelenting.

I’ve struggled over what I would say here that has not already been said, too many times, to no avail. We have prayed until our knees are sore. Called for lawmakers to do more to address mental illness. They haven’t. Fought for getting legislation restricting gun access, and failed. Pleaded with social media platforms to stop white supremacists and their ilk from spreading their hate-filed poison. It’s still spreading. For crying out loud the Buffalo gunman livestreamed his murderous rampage. What the hell?

And worse, right-wing hardliners sitting in state and federal political offices are as guilty as anyone in stirring and fueling the hate with their polarizing rhetoric and a refusal to denounce the white nationalist replacement ideology as part of anti-immigrant rhetoric to garner votes from their Republican base.

It’s infuriating. So what do we do? Monday night CNN correspondent Don Lemon asked that question then quoted James Baldwin who said; “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

I know this may sound trite given the magnitude, pervasiveness and life and death stakes here, but yes, we all must stand up and loudly denounce racism every time we see it, hear it or are the target of it.

Maybe when all the racists are standing alone on the side of the road ostracized, they will realize that, no, their vile racism won’t be tolerated here.

As for the call, it turns out, everyone in the family, just as I’d hoped, is fine and prospering despite being sick over the senseless death and asinine racism that caused it. We spoke briefly about how often family members shop at that very grocery store and how it could have been anyone. But then quickly moved on to sharing stories about our kids, jobs, retirement possibilities - no time soon for me. The point is, as evil as they are, we decided, racists won’t steal our joy. That’s another way we win.

Ruth Whitfield, 86

Roberta Drury, 32

Aaron Salter, 55

Heyward Patterson, 67

Pearl Young, 77

Geraldine Talley, 62

Celestine Chaney, 65

Katherine Massey, 72

Margus Morrison, 52

Andre Mackneil, 53

Beyond the block

Investigators work the scene of a shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, N.Y., Monday, May 16, 2022. While law enforcement officials have grown adept since the Sept. 11 attacks at disrupting well-organized plots, they face a much tougher challenge in intercepting self-radicalized young men who absorb racist screeds on social media and plot violence on their own. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Investigators work the scene of a shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, N.Y., Monday, May 16, 2022. While law enforcement officials have grown adept since the Sept. 11 attacks at disrupting well-organized plots, they face a much tougher challenge in intercepting self-radicalized young men who absorb racist screeds on social media and plot violence on their own. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Buffalo shooting suspect indicted on charges related to massacre at Tops supermarket

Shayna Jacobs of the Washington Post reports:

Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old charged in connection with the killing of 10 people at a supermarket here less than a week ago, has been indicted by a grand jury and remains in custody after a brief court appearance on Thursday.

Authorities say Gendron, an alleged white supremacist, targeted the Tops supermarket in a largely Black neighborhood because of the hatred he harbored for minorities, fueled by an obsession with false theories about replacing White people that proliferate on the Internet. He has pleaded not guilty.

“Payton, you’re a coward!” a person in the courtroom gallery yelled as Gendron, who is being held without bail, was led back to a holding area, handcuffed and shackled and wearing bright orange jail scrubs...

The exact charges are not yet public. Gendron is scheduled to return to court on June 9 to be arraigned on the indictment.

Police say Gendron traveled three hours from his home in Conklin, N.Y., to target African Americans with his Bushmaster XM-15 rifle. He is believed to have posted a screed online that revealed a paranoid obsession with a racist conspiracy theory claiming White Americans are intentionally being replaced by non-White immigrants.

More on Buffalo...

And then there’s this...

FBI Investigators enter the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. on Monday, May 16 2022. (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)
FBI Investigators enter the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. on Monday, May 16 2022. (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)

‘It Was Not a Joke’: Buffalo Massacre Suspect Shared Five Months’ Worth of Plans with Group 30 Minutes Before Attack — No One Alerted Authorities

The Atlanta Black Star’s Nyamekye Daniel writes:

Payton Gendron recorded his plans to carry out the racial massacre in East Buffalo for months in a chat on the Discord social media platform, reports show. Just 30 minutes before the white supremacist fired his first set of rounds in the Tops Friendly Markets in the Black neighborhood Saturday, he invited a small group of people to the private chat room to see his plans.

Gendron’s goal was to kill three dozen Black people, he said in the messages. No one in the chatroom alerted authorities, according to reports. He killed 10 Black people on Saturday.

“What we know at this time is that a private, invite-only server was created by the suspect to serve as a personal diary chat log,” Discord officials said in a statement.

“Approximately 30 minutes prior to the attack, however, a small group of people were invited to and joined the server. Before that, our records indicate no other people saw the diary chat log in this private server.”

Gendron also live streamed the shooting rampage and posted a 180-page manifesto online.

Around the block

Students leave Kearney High School at the end of the day, Tuesday, May 17, 2022. A former student at Kearney High School is suing the Kearney School District for harassment after being racially targeted.
Students leave Kearney High School at the end of the day, Tuesday, May 17, 2022. A former student at Kearney High School is suing the Kearney School District for harassment after being racially targeted.

‘This is a white town’: Kansas City area family sues school district after harassment

The Star’s Sarah Ritter reports:

As a freshman at Kearney High School, a Black male student was told by a white female classmate that she would have “all the whites in Kearney beat your ass.”

When a teacher overheard the conversation, the Black student was sent to the principal’s office. There, the principal told him to ignore the white student’s conduct because she was poorer than he was, according to a lawsuit filed against the district in Clay County Circuit Court this month.

It was only one in a series of incidents where the student was racially targeted and harassed while enrolled in the school, according to the suit. The student’s family claims administrators were aware of the discrimination and failed to take action to effectively protect the student and “tacitly condoned and tolerated the racial harassment.”

The suit states that the student was regularly subjected to white classmates hurling racial slurs at him, making monkey sounds and sending him threatening messages.

In 2019, two white, male high schoolers sent him pictures of themselves posing with a Confederate flag during school hours, with a message that read, “Heritage but mostly hate brotha …” The student’s mother reported the incident to administration, the suit says.

The student received other threatening messages that read, “I hope I see your black ass in tree. Alabama wind chime style” and “I hope you and your monkey family gets jumped by all the whites in Kearney.”

More from The Star...

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