The Buffalo, NY Massacre and the Unspeakable Horror of White Hatred in America
What happened in Buffalo, New York on May 14, 2022 is further evidence that the disease of racism has resurfaced in the United States with a vengeance and passion.
We have not witnessed such despicable acts of white supremacy since slavery, since lynching became a sport during post-Reconstruction, since white America’s virulent opposition to school integration, since the display of state-sanctioned violence against the non-violent Civil Rights Movement, since the historic and contemporary swath of anti-Black police violence with no accountability, and so much more.
These examples are all evidence of the unspeakable horror of white hatred in this country, which has led to innocents being slaughtered simply because…
And it is not just Blacks who bear witness to the pain of being killed just because they are who they are; those of Asians descent, Jewish descent, Latino descent have been targets of unprovoked white rage.
This latest massacre of innocent Black people in Buffalo has turned all eyes onto America, with one key question — how do you eradicate white America’s (and white immigrants’) hatred of Blacks and nonwhites?
The History of America’s Silent & Hidden Pandemic of Racism
Racial hatred is America’s silent and hidden pandemic, which erupts in the public eye periodically, but is always festering behind closed white doors.
This disease of wayward presumed white superiority has been with us from the moment white Spaniards encountered non-white indigenous people and thought them not human.
It has been with us since the first enslaved Africans set foot on the soils of the Americas, and were treated as sub-human — my ancestors’ bodies brutalized, raped, tortured, and sold to create the white privilege upon which America is built.
The Buffalo massacre is the most recent act of white supremacy racial hatred. Its roots are deep, hidden, but pervasive and certainly not dead! America’s racial healing has not come as far along as we citizens have deluded ourselves.
As whites increasingly recognize that they are becoming a numerical minority; as whites reckon with how they no longer have entitlements simply because they are white, and must compete with nonwhites; as whites see Black and Brown people gaining political power, they feel threatened and their racial insecurities are surfacing.
It is one thing to claim racial superiority — it is another to actually be racially superior, when all the evidence says whiteness has no biological advantage over any other group; it is the white structure of white racial supremacy that has been the glue to hold the idea of racial inferiority intact.
Race hatred is a disease of whiteness and white supremacy thinking. It is primarily practiced by those of European/Caucasian ancestry, but not exclusively. There are others who can pass with white-looking skin like white Hispanics (blanquitos), but also some misguided Brown and Black people who have drunk the Kool aid of internalized racism.
These latter folk are lost Brown and Black souls, and confused recent members of those who embrace the term “mixed race.” Some may have forgotten, but back in the day, when miscegenation (race mixing) was illegal, the one-drop rule of ancestry prevailed (up until 1967 when the Supreme Court rule in Loving v. Virginia, that interracial relations/marriages, were no longer illegal).
Regardless of skin color, hair texture, nose size, etc., “one drop” of Black blood defined you as “Black.” Period. There were no luxurious titles of “mixed race” to mask Black ancestry.
I say “recent” mixed race because most Black Americans carry some mixture. While embracing our African ancestry and proclaiming ourselves “Black”, our DNA reflects the horrors of the forced rape of Black women under slavery. Any Black American who can trace their DNA to 99–100% African is a rare person indeed.
This recent white supremacy attack on Black people is rooted in an attempt to erase Black people, as if the past atrocities that white people have committed against Black and Indigenous people in the United States for over three-hundred years can be removed by killing people today.
The pre-meditated cowardly act of shooting innocent Black people is simply the killer’s own white shame, guilt, fragility, feeling of inferiority, and his loss of white privilege and entitlements.
From his manifesto, it is also evidence of white paranoia that has gripped this country and motivated the attacks on the 1619 Project and on teaching Critical Race Theory (which, by the way, was NEVER EVER taught in K-12; it is a theoretical frame of legal analysis).
Ignorance Will Not Bring Bliss
And, this young, white murderer is not alone in trying to erase the past. The legislative actions of the State of Iowa (House File 802) is an effort to stop the teaching of the authentic American history of enslavement in this country, and not the one of white superiority over inferior Black and Indigenous people that has ruled educational texts for decades.
The 1619 Project provides proof of the economic, political, and religious motivations of the institution of slavery. The project argues for 1619 as the origins of slavery in America and asserts the humanity of enslaved people.
It refuses to romanticize the founding of this country and makes clear that the ideal of democracy and having an institution of slavery for over 300 years have created a contradiction in the social fabric of country with which we live with today.
To outlaw the use of the 1619 Project or the teaching of Critical Race Theory — to make illegal any discussion of diversity (remember the 45th tried that once with an Executive Order) ultimately will prove futile.
You cannot erase historical facts!
You can hide them, silence them, try to rewrite them, but the fact of slavery and enslavement cannot be destroyed because Black Americans are the bodies of evidence.
Those who foment racial hatred are filled with an incredible racial inferiority complex and a profound sense of loss over having to share the privilege they have never earned, but to which they feel entitled.
Not teaching about the institution of slavery and this democratic country’s most historic and profound violation of human rights through the enslavement of millions of people will result only in a generation of racially ignorant white children who become racially stupid white adults who can only respond to racial justice protests with the lame excuse, “I didn’t know.”
Ignorance of the law is no excuse, and those who break the law are penalized appropriately.
Ignorance of this country’s history of racial injustice and racial violence in this country is no excuse. Those who claim innocence, or that they should not be held responsible for the sins of their white forebearers (men and women), need only reflect on the recent tragedy in Buffalo, and recognize that the disease of White Supremacy is still with us, and that today’s white population are all potential carriers of the disease of white hatred.
A side effect of such racial hatred and a belief in a white dominated racial hierarchy is the paranoid-informed “Replacement Theory.” Apparently, some whites are so estranged over losing their undeserved white advantage that they have promulgated a theory that immigration and diversity constitute a massive plot to replace all white people!
Nothing could be further from the truth; telling the truth of slavery via the 1619 Project, showing how the vestiges of enslavement, using Critical Race Theory (CRT), continues to influence and inform policies and behaviors today, are necessary precursors to solving the 21st Century’s ‘problem of the color line,” as W.E.B. Du Bois so eloquently put it over 100 years ago. We are still grappling with how to de-problematize Blackness, which he wrote about in Souls of Black Folk:
“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. How does it feel to be a problem?”
As Melissa Harris-Perry points out in a recent assessment of Du Bois’ observation, the issue is not about having problems but being perceived as a problem:
But Du Bois was pointing to something different. Not just having problems, but being a problem. How does it feel to be a problem? To have your very body and the bodies of your children to be assume to be criminal, violent, malignant.
It is this history that White America wants to erase — our centuries of struggles as Black people to become part of the nation, a nation who very foundation owes its existence to the labor of enslaved Black people and the appropriated lands of Indigenous Native Americans.
White America, yielding all the political, social, and economic power it has amassed, by exploiting and dehumanizing Black and Indigenous people, wants to flex its cultural and political muscles to reinstate a false, white-washed narrative.
But we, Black America, will prevail.
We will resist and remain resilient, even in the face of death — like those who fell under bullets of white range in Buffalo.
We will suffer the brutality of white America coming to terms with its past and demand prosecution to the fullest extent of the law for those white Americans who try as individuals (and as elected official) to resurrect white Supremacy as the order of the day in the present.
We will NOT stand for it!
America Needs a Healing — the Survivors Will Be Human
Writing on the death of his new-born son, the late African American poet Michael S. Harper closed the poem “DeathWatch” with these lines: “America needs a killing/America needs a killing/ Survivors will be human.”
This is how I feel now.
I am in mourning over the death of democracy and the shedding of any ounce of moral dignity America once held. This country is in tragic shape. And the condition is worsening every day fueled by White Supremacy thinking that even was allowed to become President of the United States.
We are giving billions of dollars in relief to the Ukraine. Where is the support for the families of Buffalo’s Black victims? When has America EVER offered relief to us as we navigate the racial war that has prevailed in this country since end of slavery? These are questions for another day.
Today, if we in America (Blacks, Browns, Whites, Asians, Indigenous) can survive this latest hate killing in Buffalo, NY;
if we can survive the recent legislative actions to erase America’s racial history by not allowing a complete history to be taught in K-12;
if we can survive the religiously motivated patriarchal efforts to control women’s bodies and wombs;
if we can survive the erosion of the presumed neutrality of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the abortion of Roe v. Wade;
if we can survive the refusal of elected officials in the U.S. Senate to reauthorize Civil Rights Acts that guarantees Black Americans’ right to vote;
if we can survive the persistence of unprovoked state-sanctioned Police Violence against Black people, and other nonwhites;
and, finally, if we can survive the escalation of White Supremacy violence as evidenced by the premeditated execution of innocent Black people by a white supremacist — whose neighbors will assure us “he is a good man” ;
if we as Black people continue to survive daily encounters with implicit bias and micro aggression,
if we can survive all of the above known America horrors, and so many that are unknown, and operate in secret or are hidden, then we can begin the journey on a path to reclaim humanity — not ours (Black, Brown, and Indigenous people who have remained resilient, as is humanly possible, in the face of unspeakable horrors) — but theirs (white people).
This is a call to action for all white people (individually and as a group) to come to the aid of this country.
This is a call to action for those who walk with whiteness; those who invoke white fragility and practice vulnerable whiteness (especially WGT — white girl tears); those who never question their white-skin privilege; those who reap today the benefits of white privilege founded on the blood, sweat, and tears of Black enslaved people, the genocide, land appropriation of Indigenous Americans, and this country’s continued failure to honor treaties and keep promises, yet never question the origins of that privilege.
This is a call to action for those who claim white innocence, yet never question at whose expense their privilege was delivered; the academic institutions with their billion-dollar endowments (yeah Harvard) derived from selling human beings like chattel, yet only offer a paltry million dollars as reparations for slavery, and only admit into their college Blacks primarily of immigrant descent and not Native-born Black Americans to whom they owe the debt.
This is a call to action for all those who claim to be “good white people,” yet simply shrug their shoulders and pretend nothing extraordinary has happened when they witness (and are complicit with, through their silence,) daily injustices, racism, microaggression, and white violence —
This call to action is for you White America.
A Modest Prayer
White America needs a healing,
White America needs a healing,
I pray with all my heart that the survivors will be human!
© Irma McClaurin
Irma McClaurin (@mcclaurintweets) is an activist Black Feminist anthropologist, award-winning writer, and Culture and Education Editor and columnist for Insight News, and #blackfeministtraveler. In 2015, the Black Press of America selected her as “Best in the Nation Columnist.” She is a past president of Shaw University, CEO and Senior Consultant of Irma McClaurin Solutions, the 2021 recipient of the American Anthropological Associations Engaged Anthropology Award, and founder of the Irma McClaurin Black Feminist Archive (bit.ly/blkfemarchive) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A collection of her columns, JustSpeak: Reflections on Race, Culture, and Politics in America, is forthcoming in 2022.