Buffalo Mass Shooting: How do we end the epidemic of hate-driven murders? 

OPINION: We will never be able to bring back the murder victims killed in Buffalo and in other hate crimes. The best we can do is work together to lessen the hatred.

Flowers are left at a makeshift memorial outside of Tops market on May 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed. The views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Racism, religious bigotry and other forms of prejudice are cancer on the soul that can turn some people into hate-filled killers. Tragically, we saw another example Saturday with the racist mass murder of 10 people and wounding of three others in Buffalo — 11 of them Black.

The 18-year-old self-proclaimed white supremacist accused of the shootings very deliberately chose to attack a supermarket in a Black neighborhood, according to authorities. They said he wrote in a 180-page manifesto that he wanted to drive all Americans not descended from Europeans out of the U.S. and expressed hatred against Blacks, Jews, immigrants and others.

It would be wrong to view this horrific crime simply as an attack on Black people. It was an attack on all people — a crime against humanity, motivated by the belief that some human beings are actually subhuman. 

Dehumanization of the “other” was used to justify America’s enslavement of Africans, who were legally classified as property, like farm animals. Dehumanization was also used to justify the killing and displacement of Native Americans, and Nazi Germany’s murder of 6 million Jews. 

In recent years, such toxic hatred was also embraced by modern white supremacists. These included the gunmen who murdered these victims: 51 Muslims at two New Zealand mosques, nine Black people at a Bible study session at a Charleston church, 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue, six Asian American women and two others at three Atlanta spas, and 23 people at an El Paso Walmart in the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern U.S. history. 

So what can we do about the epidemic of hate-driven murders? 

People gather outside of Tops market on May 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. Yesterday a gunman opened fire at the store, killing ten people and wounding another three. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

As a woman of faith, I believe we must go beyond simply saying our thoughts and prayers are with the victims. This is not enough. The Lord wants us to take action to right the wrongs plaguing our society and make the world better, not to simply pray and do nothing else.

And we can’t simply shrug our shoulders and say we need to improve mental health treatment to stop people from committing murder. We need to do more to help the mentally ill, without question, but that’s just one of many steps we need to take.

First, Congress needs to stop fearing the National Rifle Association (NRA) and enact sensible gun safety legislation. This includes outlawing assault weapons like the one used by the Buffalo gunman, requiring background checks for all gun purchases, and taking other commonsense actions. This can be done without violating Second Amendment rights. Law-abiding citizens could still buy guns for hunting and self-protection.  

Second, we need to tamp down the fires of hatred now being stoked by partisan media, social media and some politicians. 

Social media companies need to do a better job keeping their platforms from being polluted by toxic hatred that can spark violence. Some domestic white supremacists committing murders — who the FBI says now pose a greater danger than foreign terrorists — have been radicalized online.

Partisan media and extremist politicians need to cool down overheated rhetoric against opponents that can motivate some impressionable people to pick up guns and plant bombs. The deadly Jan. 6, 2021 riot and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of defeated former President Donald Trump illustrates what can happen when people view political adversaries as mortal enemies. 

Capitol mob theGrio
Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, breaking windows and clashing with police officers. Trump supporters gathered in the nation’s capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images)

Every day, hate-mongers are throwing gasoline on the flames of prejudice, demonizing people of different ethnic or racial backgrounds as well as people holding different views. This encourages hatred that divides the American people and can push a small minority over the edge to commit murder and other acts of violence. 

Many hate-mongers today embrace the “Great Replacement Theory” currently being spread by some right-wing media commentators. The poisonous theory was embraced not only by the Buffalo gunman but by the New Zealand gunman who complained in 2019 of “white genocide” and by neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen who marched through Charlottesville, Va. in 2017 chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

The Great Replacement Theory was concocted by Sen. Theodore Bilbo (D-Miss.), a virulent racist and antisemite who called for deporting Black Americans to Africa in his 1947 book “Separation or Mongrelization: Take Your Choice.” He argued that the white race was in danger of being replaced by inferior mixed-race people (whom he referred to as “mongrels”) and warned that whites could disappear due to “interbreeding” with Blacks.

The latest nonsensical version of this theory, cited by the Buffalo gunman, claims that white people are being “replaced” by immigrants of color in a conspiracy orchestrated by Jews. 

People gather outside a supermarket where several people were killed in a shooting, Saturday, May 14, 2022 in Buffalo, N.Y. Officials said the gunman entered the supermarket with a rifle and opened fire. Investigators believe the man may have been livestreaming the shooting and were looking into whether he had posted a manifesto online (Derek Gee/The Buffalo News via AP)

The bottom line is that America is a nation of immigrants (only about 2% of our population is Native American) that will always be populated by people of different races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities and political views. This diversity is our nation’s strength, not our weakness. 

We can’t force our fellow Americans to love each other. But at a minimum, we need to do everything possible to stop them from hating each other, and above all from harming and killing each other. Our schools, religious institutions, businesses and other organizations need to join with politicians, the media and social media companies in this vital task.

As part of the effort to reduce racism and other forms of hatred, we need to acknowledge that such prejudice has existed throughout American history and still exists today. The movement by some Republicans to ban teaching the truth about American bigotry, which they incorrectly label as a campaign against “critical race theory,” is harmful because it is impossible for the younger generation to fix a problem unless they understand it exists.

We will never be able to bring back the murder victims killed in Buffalo and in other hate crimes. The best we can do is work together to lessen the hatred that so dangerously divides us and claimed their lives.

Donna Brazile Headshot thegrio.com

Donna Brazile is an ABC News Contributor, veteran political strategist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and the King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University. She previously served as interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute. She managed the Gore campaign in 2000 and has lectured at more than 225 colleges and universities on race, diversity, women, leadership and restoring civility in politics. Brazile is the author of several books, including the New York Times’ bestseller “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.” @DonnaBrazile

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