Lessons On Hate from Buffalo

By Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

The massacre at Tops Supermarket in Buffalo Saturday afternoon by an 18-year-old, white male in tactical gear with an illegally modified assault rifle killing 10 people, wounding 3 others and shattering the predominately Black community it served was shocking, horrifying, sickening, and tragic.  About the only thing it wasn’t was surprising.

We’ve been here before time and time and time again.  Mass shootings are practically America’s brand (four last weekend alone).  There’s little point in belaboring our nation’s gun violence epidemic again. It’s obvious the people we elect, who have the ability to save lives, are more afraid of gun owners than the overwhelming majority of Americans who support gun control and reform.

If anything was surprising on Saturday, it was the media’s resolute refusal to call the attack what it was 6 hours after the shooter’s motives and planning were revealed by authorities.  They kept referring to it as a “racially motivated mass shooting” or similar variations ie “act of violent extremism.”  It was an act of White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism  PERIOD  FULL STOP.

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Reporters and news outlets are supposed to be accurate and to the point.  The alleged shooter wore body armor, carried a weapon of war, live streamed the carnage, wrote a 180-page white supremacist, anti-Semitic manifesto, and attacked the only grocery store in the most predominantly African American zip code he could find on a Saturday when it would be filled with defenseless women and children.

What part of that does not scream white supremacist domestic terrorism?

Did they not learned the concept in 2019 when another young white male went halfway across Texas to an El Paso Walmart just to execute as many Mexicans as possible?  Or in 2017 when an avowed white supremacist drove his speeding car into demonstrators standing up to hate in Charlottesville and killed Heather Heyer.  The mainstream media was quick to point fingers at social media outlets and rightwing propaganda networks for their culpability in fomenting racial hate.  Absolutely they do, but they should also take a hard look at themselves for not being honest about naming exactly what these national tragedies are and their true purpose – mass murder and intimidation fueled by hate.

We can rail about social media oversight, decry propaganda polluting the news and demand our law enforcement do more to stop the rise of hate groups before they commit acts of terrorism, perhaps we should also look at what we are doing and teaching.  Hate, racism, bigotry, prejudice etc. have always been around but somehow some of us, hopefully most of us, have managed to avoid or overcome it.  Classroom discussions and curriculum about racism (the ones being outlawed by Republicans) are important factually and contextually, but hate is an emotion. I proffer it starts earlier and is much more fundamental.

In 1949, Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote “You Have To Be Carefully Taught” for their Broadway bound musical, South Pacific.  Producers demanded they cut it because its themes on racism were too controversial and would upset audiences.  The pair told them, it was the heart of the show; the song stayed or they wouldn’t open.  South Pacific won 10 Tony Awards, the Pulitzer Prize and became the second longest running show on Broadway.  Suffice it to say the power, insight, and truth of that song is still as relevant 73 years later.

 

The question is what are we ourselves teaching children?  Not just our own but all children who see and hear us?  What example are we setting before they are 6 or 7 or 8?  The ability of the internet to corrupt and radicalize is great, but before children get there, we have the power to reach them first.   We can make a first and lasting impression on them.  They have to be carefully taught: there is no reason for hate; hate is a burden, but kindness is a gift; and hate ultimately destroys the hater.

There’s an 18-year-old in a Buffalo jail who’s learned that and will be reminded every day for the rest of his life.

 

Our main image is courtesy of Hate Has No Home Here.  From their website,

“The Hate Has No Home Here movement is built around a simple idea: it’s easy to hate people we don’t know. Posters and yard signs are just the beginning. What starts as powerful, positive messaging continues in relationship-building, dialogue, and communal action. When neighbors of different races, religions, and nationalities move past indifference to investment in one another, we knock out the underpinnings of racism and intolerance, and make possible a better future for our communities.”

To learn more about their movement and order signs, buttons and sticks for your neighborhood, please visit,

HateHasNoHomeHere.org 

 

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