Saturday’s slaying of ten people in Buffalo, in the state of New York, is said to be one of the deadliest racist massacres in the recent history of the United States of America, roiled as it has been over the past few years by the conflict between blacks and whites. Such tragedies have been a blot on both Democratic and Republican dispensations, pre-eminently the ones led by Barack Obama, Donald Trump and now Joe Biden. In what appears to be an extreme form of mental aberration, a teenage gunman, allegedly entranced by white supremacist ideology ~ known as replacement theory ~ opened fire at a supermarket. His victims are said to be mostly black.
The authorities identified the gunman as 18- year-old Payton S. Gendron of Conkin, a small town in New York’s Southern Tier. He is reported to have driven more than 200 miles to mount the attack or more precisely to kill people on the basis of the colour of their skin.
The video feed was designed to buttress his sinister agenda of man’s inhumanity to man. The manifesto, posted online by the gunman, bristles with racist, anti-immigrant sniper attacks that claimed white Americans are at risk of being replaced by people of colour. An anti-Black slur was even noticed on the barrel of his weapon. Palpable was the calculated malevolence.
The tragedy at a Tops Friendly Market in a pre-dominantly Black neighbourhood of Buffalo revived horrific memories of other massacres, notably the killing of nine Black parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, an anti-Semitic rampage in a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 people dead; and an attack at a Walmart in El Paso in 2019, where the man charged had bared his angst against Latinos. More the 20 people had died there. Savagery and planning were the inherent facets of the Buffalo massacre.
Armed with assault weapons and body armour, his targeted victims were clear enough. Eleven of the people shot were Blacks and two were whites. “It was a straight-up racially motivated hate crime,“ was the immediate response of the County Sheriff. Governor Kathy Hochul ~ a Buffalo native ~ described the attack as an “act of barbarism”, and execution of innocent human beings and a “frightening reminder of white supremacist terrorism”. This is the primary facet of America’s hate crimes.
In the document, which was self-explanatory, the assassin outlined a careful plan to kill as many Blacks as possible, complete with the type of gun he would use and a timeline.
Thus, it was not a spur-of-the-moment happenstance. He wrote that he had been “passively preparing” for the Buffalo attack for several years, purchasing ammunition and gear. The racist idea, also known as replacement theory, is a concept once associated with the far-Right fringe. Over time, it has become increasingly mainstream, buttressed as it has been by politicians and popular television pro- grammes, and finds violent expression because of America’s lax gun laws.