The story is, to this day, sickening and familiar. From Charleston to El Paso, from Pittsburgh to San Diego, and from Christchurch, New Zealand, to the latest horror scene in Buffalo, New York, each of these mass shootings is stitched together with a common thread: white supremacy. .
As investigators begin to piece together the details of Saturday’s Tops Friendly Market massacre that killed 10 people, the killer’s motivation is already in no doubt.
The assailant appears to be a radicalized and lonely white shooter, filled with racial hatred fueled by an extremist theory widely available on the internet, who descended on a predominantly black community in Buffalo, New York, heavily armed and determined to kill as many people that he could.
The suspect, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, allegedly etched a racial slur into the barrel of his assault rifle before going live gunning down grocers, supermarket workers and a security guard.
Authorities said he also posted a lengthy ‘manifesto’ on social media, with frequent references to a racist ‘white replacement’ theory to justify what they called a ‘hate crime and extremism’. racially motivated violence”.
Joe Biden, dozens of American politicians and community and civil rights leaders, including the Reverend Al Sharptonwere quick to express their outrage, calling for more to be done to address the rise in hate crimes in the United States.
But it’s a problem that has escalated in recent years, largely cultivated in the cauldron of the internet’s darkest recesses and eagerly seized upon by those too willing to convert biased ideology into violence.
The FBI reported last year that hate crimes in the United States had reached their highest level in 12 years, triggered in large part by an increase in attacks on black and Asian Americans. And while mass murders such as those in Buffalo and elsewhere understandably attract the most attention, many thousands more violent, hate-motivated attacks take place each year, leading Attorney General Merrick Garland to make domestic terrorism and racially motivated hate crimes “an absolute priority”. for the Ministry of Justice.
“Hate and racism have no place in America,” Derrick Johnson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said in a statement following the Buffalo attack. .
“We are shocked, extremely angry and praying for the families and loved ones of the victims, as well as for the entire community.”
Buffalo’s parallels are significant not only with the August 2019 murder of 21 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, but also with countless other shootings involving a radicalized, lone assailant.
In El Paso, the shooter, a 21-year-old white man, also posted a document online on the extremist message board 8chan, saying the attack in the border town was “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”.
Four years earlier, an attack on a black community church by an avowed white supremacist in Charleston, South Carolina, left nine people dead.
In October 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a white man shouted “All Jews must die” as he burst into the Tree of Life Synagogue and shot dead 11 worshipers and injured six others. Police then discovered anti-Semitic posts on the killer’s social media.
And a similar shooting occurred at a synagogue in San Diego, California in April 2019 when one person died and several others were injured by a 19-year-old who also posted racial hate messages on 8chan.
The San Diego killer claimed he was motivated by attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand a month earlier in which a white supremacist murdered 51 Muslims. Investigators there quickly established that the killer had become radicalized online, published his own hate manifesto and broadcast the killings live.
For Sharpton, a veteran civil rights activist and television host, the latest attack in Buffalo is an urgent call to action.
“President Biden should host a meeting at the White House of Black, Jewish and Asian leaders to highlight the federal government’s growing efforts against hate crimes,” he said. in a tweet.
“These hate crimes must be fought with a united front against hate-motivated violence.”
Buffalo’s mayor, meanwhile, said Sunday he believed the killings in his city would be “a turning point.”
“I would like to see reasonable gun control. I would like to see an end to hate speech on the Internet, on social networks. It is not freedom of expression. It’s not the American way,” Byron Brown said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“We are not a nation of haters. We are not a nation of hate. We need to send the message that there is no place on the internet for hate speech, for hateful indoctrination, for spreading hate manifestos.
“I will be a louder voice for this. I believe what happened in Buffalo, New York, yesterday is going to be a turning point. I think it’s going to be different after that, in terms of the energy and activity that we see.”