Mourning the Murders in Buffalo
Just as Notre Dame was celebrating its graduates this past Saturday, a white supremacist murdered ten African Americans in a Tops Friendly Markets store (due to redlining, the only supermarket in this Black neighborhood) in Buffalo, New York. The fact that this has happened again, and that the perpetrator (again) acted with such efficient intent is both chilling and incomprehensible in a way that nearly outstrips our capacity to rationalize such a tragedy.
Our hearts are heavy for the victims and their families. And as we hold them in our thoughts and prayers, it is essential that we say and remember their names:
Roberta A. Drury of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 32, daughter and sister.
Margus D. Morrison of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 52, husband and father of four.
Andre Mackneil of Auburn, N.Y. – age 53, father and engaged to be married.
Aaron Salter of Lockport, N.Y. – age 55, husband and father of three, retired police officer, Tops security guard.
Geraldine Talley of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 62, mother of two.
Celestine Chaney of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 65, mother and grandmother of six.
Heyward Patterson of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 67, father of three.
Katherine Massey of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 72, civil rights activist.
Pearl Young of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 77, mother of three.
Ruth Whitfield of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 86, wife and mother of four, grandmother of eight.
We pray for the wounded survivors who will need the ongoing support of their families and surrounding communities to recover from this traumatic moment. And as we hold them in our thoughts and prayers, it is essential that we say and remember their names:
Zaire Goodman of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 20, Tops employee.
Jennifer Warrington of Tonawanda, N.Y. – age 50.
Christopher Braden of Lackawanna, N.Y. – age 55.
These victims were attacked because of a fanatical devotion to white supremacy, the belief that European descent confers an innate superiority and entitlement, a belief that requires the creation and vilification of a racialized enemy. Historically, this belief has sanctioned the hemisphericwide campaign of genocide against indigenous communities, the African slave trade, racialized slavery, colonization, anti-Asian violence, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the attack on the Capital, and systemic racism that manifests itself today in health, wealth, education, police brutality, mass incarceration, prejudicial sentencing, environmental racism, housing,… indeed in virtually every feature of modern life.
White supremacy and its derivations (white nationalism, white Christian nationalism, replacement theory, and so on), propagated through social media and sanctioned or excused by a growing number of politicians, give rise to the massacres we’ve witnessed recently: Dylann Roof’s murder of nine Black worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015; the murder of eleven worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2018; the killing of twenty people (mostly Latinx) at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas in 2019; and the shootings at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand that resulted in the deaths of 51 Muslims in 2019. These are only the most infamous racist massacres. The list is much longer.
And so, in this moment of pain and anger and bewilderment, what are we to do? What are we to do when prayers and well-wishing seem so woefully inadequate?
We can do what our forebears have done for centuries: persevere. We can redouble our efforts to continue the centuries-old struggle to realize a world free of white supremacy. Therefore, we must work to hold politicians and media outlets that propagate replacement theory accountable for their lethal rhetoric; we must continue to confront systemic racism in its myriad forms; we must continue, at every turn, to promote multiracial democracy; and we must support and celebrate communities of color.
May love and hope continue to bind us and buoy us up, and may we carry the victims of the Buffalo massacre with us.
Mark A. Sanders