Over the weekend, a young white man drove several hours from where he lived, put on army fatigues and a helmet, and walked into a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, where he livestreamed himself shooting 13 people, killing 10 of them.
So often when these things happen, we jump to analysis and lose sight of the people whose lives were taken. I will not do that. We must not lose sight of the men and women who were killed. I will name each one of them below — and I urge those who see these words to read each name:
- Roberta A. Drury of Buffalo, New York, age 32
- Margus D. Morrison of Buffalo, New York, age 52
- Andre Mackneil of Auburn, New York, age 53
- Aaron Salter of Lockport, New York, age 55
- Geraldine Talley of Buffalo, New York, age 62
- Celestine Chaney of Buffalo, New York, age 65
- Heyward Patterson of Buffalo, New York, age 67
- Katherine Massey of Buffalo, New York, age 72
- Pearl Young of Buffalo, New York, age 77
- Ruth Whitfield of Buffalo, New York, age 86
Not long after the massacre, authorities discovered an anti-Black manifesto posted by the shooter, identified as 18-year-old Payton Gendron, filled with racist ideas known colloquially as the “great replacement” theory — an idea developed by French philosopher Renaud Camus holding that white people are being systematically replaced by immigrants. However, the theory is a malleable one, and has been expanded by extremists to include anyone who is not white.
It became clear from the gunman’s 180-page manifesto that his intent was to kill as many Black people as possible because he felt that Black people were replacing white folks in America. Once he was done with Black people, his plan was to move on to other races and ethnic demographics.
This is the same theory that inspired Robert Bowers to kill 11 people in Pittsburgh in 2018; Brenton Tarrant to kill 51 people in New Zealand in 2019, and Patrick Crusius to kill 23 people in El Paso, Texas, in 2019.
They all cited some version of replacement theory as motivation behind their actions. It would be one thing if this idea was a fringe one, eschewed by politicians and media members alike, but it isn’t. In fact, many prominent Republicans, both in Congress and on Fox News, have openly embraced a version of the theory unapologetically.
Just this week, Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, said this in a tweet:
Now, I cannot say for certain if she knew that she was spouting replacement theory ideology or not, but not long after the tweet, she noted that she’s “never made a racist comment” and that she’s “known nationally as expanding the Republican Party by supporting Black candidates and Hispanic candidates” — seemingly trying to distance herself from the ideas that are in line with the Buffalo shooter.
Tucker Carlson, the host of the most-watched cable news show among adults age 25-54, has long been a proponent of the great replacement theory. In fact, when you put Carlson’s words side-by-side with the Buffalo shooter’s, it is uncanny how similar they are.
Let’s cut to the chase. The Republican Party has embraced the same kind of nationalistic, racist and evil ideas that inspire killers around the world to target Black and brown people. There was once a time when Republican leaders could say with honesty that they were shocked and appalled when events like what happened on Saturday happened. Yet, their stance on gun control and their embrace of a neutered version of the “great replacement” theory make their calls for peace and prayer ring hollow.
Just days after the shooting, Senate Republicans have already come out to claim that gun reform is not the answer.
“It just doesn’t seem to be helpful to me to go after law-abiding citizens and our Second Amendment rights, so I’m going to continue to hold that position,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told The Hill Tuesday.
“I think I heard a Black person from Buffalo on television say that guns don’t kill, people kill. So what are you going to accomplish by gun control?” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told the outlet. “Particularly, if it’s a violation of the Second Amendment?”
It’s amazing the level of disdain that Republicans have for dead Americans. Making guns harder to get is a simple fix that Republicans won’t even consider because they’re complicit in these acts. While they may not argue for mass killings, they aren’t doing anything to stop them. The divisive rhetoric and lax gun laws embolden those who take their fears of a less white America literally.
Already, media outlets have begun to spin the narrative around this shooting. They consistently call the shooter a teen — thereby painting the doer of these evil, hateful crimes as someone young and worthy of sympathy. We know what comes next. They will dig into his background, and learn that he was a loner who was probably bullied, making this monster out to be not evil, just misunderstood. This is what they will do for Gendron, the white man charged with murder. Something that was not done for Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin or Antwon Rose — all Black boys killed by police or vigilantes. In the wake of their deaths, all of them were discussed like they were adults. What will be afforded Payton in life was never given to Black children, even in death.
I’ve grown weary of living in a country run by narcissistic racists who feel that they can say what they please as long as their poll and ratings numbers remain up. Buffalo shows us definitively that words and ideas have consequences, and if people like Tucker Carlson and Elise Stefanik continue to use their platforms to spew ideas rooted in hate, then I will have to look long and hard at the people who watch Carlson and remain a part of the party of Stefanik and count you not as a person who merely wants lower taxes, but, instead, as a person who is hostile to the presence of Black and brown people in this country.
Time is up for quietly putting up with racist ideas. It cost 10 people their lives in Buffalo, 10 people whose names I will never forget.