Buffalo and the Threat of White Supremacy

Content Warning: anti-Black racism, mass shooting

May the memories of all ten Black Americans murdered in Buffalo this weekend be a blessing. And may we all rise up against the dangerous white nationalist ideologies that inspired this violent attack.

This weekend, we were reminded of an old and enduring truth: white supremacy is the greatest threat to the dream of a democratic America where every single person can be safe and thrive.

Whether we are walking through the doors of our community’s supermarkets, shopping centers, synagogues, mosques, or churches, every single one of us deserves to be safe.

On Saturday, a white nationalist drove to Buffalo, NY with the intention of murdering Black people, killing ten and injuring more. Once again, our hearts are torn apart and we are filled with rage in the aftermath of an act of white supremacist terror.

We are praying for the recovery of those injured and we mourn the victims: Celestine Chaney, 65; Roberta Drury, 32; Andre Mackniel, 53; Katherine Massey, 72; Margus D. Morrison, 52; Heyward Patterson, 67; Aaron W. Salter, 55; Geraldine Talley, 62; Ruth Whitfield, 86; and Pearly Young, 77.

May their memories be a blessing, and may their legacy be action. Our multiracial Jewish community extends our love, solidarity, and support to the Black community in Buffalo and all who are in pain.

This attack was no accident. The alleged shooter drove several hours to target this neighborhood — choosing a supermarket Black Buffalo residents lobbied for years to get — with the intention to murder as many Black people as he could.1

The shooter’s manifesto cites the dangerous lie of “great replacement,” a racist and antisemitic conspiracy theory which claims Jewish people are behind efforts to replace white Americans, often through immigration or elections. This very same lie echoed in gunshots aimed at Jewish people in Pittsburgh in 2018 and Latinx people in El Paso in 2019.2,3

This is no coincidence. The idea of “replacement” is an old one, now tailored to spread white panic in a time of changing demographics in the United States.

In recent years, this lie has gone from the fringes of the white nationalist movement to the mainstream of rightwing political rhetoric. A growing number of rightwing politicians and pundits — from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson to Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third highest-ranking Republican in the House — are spreading this lie to audiences of millions.4,5

Now, a poll released last week shows that nearly half of Republican voters agree to at least some extent with “replacement theory” — the same idea that inspired the massacre in Buffalo.6

This is a strategy. In the face of a growing movement for multiracial democracy, Black liberation, and freedom for all, these politicians and pundits are cynically stoking white grievances to manufacture division and fear in order to grow their power, no matter who gets hurt. They aim to keep people of all races and classes from working across lines of difference to win the things we all need to thrive.

We must respond to this moment with the full moral courage and political strength it requires. Defeating this concerted threat to the safety of our communities and our country’s democracy must be the number one priority of our Jewish institutions.

Together, we will build a country where everyone is able to live with freedom, safety, and belonging — no matter our race, how we pray, or where we come from.

In solidarity,

The Bend the Arc team

P.S. In recent years, Bend the Arc has been tracking this conspiracy theory and working to hold the politicians and pundits who spread it accountable. We’ve posted a thread on Twitter with multiple facts and videos you need to understand what’s happening now. Please read and share if you’re interested.

Sources

1. The New York Times, Gunman Targeted Black Neighborhood Shaped by Decades of Segregation
2. NPR, What is the 'Great Replacement' and how is it tied to the Buffalo shooting suspect?
3. The New York Times, How Buffalo Suspect's Racist Writings Reveal Links to Other Attacks
4. Mother Jones, The Buffalo Shooter's Manifesto Relied on the Same White Supremacist Conspiracy Pushed by Tucker Carlson
5. The Washington Post, Rep. Elise Stefanik echoed racist theory allegedly espoused by Buffalo suspect
6. The Washington Post, Nearly half of Republicans agree with 'great replacement theory'