This is an opinion column.
They just wanted to shop, most of them. To buy groceries at Tops—Tops Friendly Markets is the full name of the supermarket on the east side of Buffalo, New York, a beacon in the Jefferson Avenue neighborhood.
Ruth Whitfield, 86, stopped there on Saturday afternoon to grab something to eat before visiting her husband in a nursing home. There, too, was Alabama-born Pearly Young, 77, who was dropped at the market after lunch with her sister-in-law. There were Katherine Massey, 72, “a beautiful soul”, her sister told NPR; Hayward Patterson, 72, a church armor bearer who gave folks rides to and from the store; Celestine Chaney, 65, a grandmother of six and cancer survivor; thirty-two-year-old “vibrant” Roberta A. Drury, at the store to get food for dinner; father-of-three Margus D. Morrison, 52; Andre Mackneil, 53, at the store to buy birthday cupcakes for his thee-year-old son; and Geraldine Talley, 62.
They just wanted to shop. To eat. To enjoy. To live.
Aaron Salter, a retired 55-year-old Buffalo police officer, was there, as well. He was a security guard.
He just wanted to protect. And to live.
They’re all dead. Gunned down in an evil murderous spree perpetrated by a proud, self-labeled white supremacist who authored almost 100 pages of derangement to say, I hate Black people.
A white supremacist who drove 200 miles to kill Black people. Living in a predominantly Black area. (African Americans comprised 11 among the 10 murdered and three wounded; the others are white.)
A white supremacist who is an oozing manifestation of an age when too many live by memes and streams, who wanted us to witness his attack live.
More on the Buffalo killings:
A 77-year-old Alabama native among those killed by white supremacist
Buffalo killings: What do we know?
‘Hero’ guard, church deacon among those killed in Buffalo shooting
I won’t say (or type) his name. He doesn’t deserve it.
He deserves only the full weight of the criminal justice system, and an eternal ticket to hell.
Per reports from those who’ve scanned the man’s screed (I won’t read, nor share it on social media), he was driven, at least in part, by an insipid line of thinking (or not) that there’s a plan afoot to diminish the influence of white people. (White people whose ancestors, ahem, more-than-diminished—I’m being polite today—the indigenous peoples whose land they invaded centuries ago.)
It’s known as the Great Replacement Theory. As in we—anybody who’s not white—are collectively yet secretly conspiring to snatch the benefits of whiteness from their clutched fingers.
Early provocateurs called it a Jewish conspiracy. More recently, GR theorists claim brown-skinned immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean are tools of Democrats (I presume, though, at least a few of these Dems are white) seeking to recruit voters more likely to help defuse “real” Americans.
It’s hard to convey what a great crock it all is.
Then there’s us. Black people. Despite persistent gaps in wealth, health care, sentencing, homeownership, corporate leadership, and other areas; despite lingering vestiges of discrimination in housing, hiring, banking and so much more, we still get blamed. And targeted.
No need to recount the names of those who’ve previously unleashed murderous evil among us. They don’t deserve it.
For us, Buffalo was family.
I never met any among the dead and wounded—as most of us had not, of course. But we knew them. We knew the grandmother. The wife. The deacon. The sister. The uncle. The friend who loved to sing and dance. The cousin with the incandescent smile.
Saturday pierced us as if they were our own. Because they were our own.
They just wanted to live. As do the rest of us.
(A parenthetical pause: We have work to do among our own. So much to do to stop killing our own. Especially our youth. Killing with a wanton disregard for life that pierces too many as deeply as did the heinous rage in Buffalo.)
More columns by Roy S. Johnson
‘We don’t like each other’: Birmingham pastor’s tough words on Black violence
Deleware State lacrosse women are our new freedom riders
Look what we’ve done: Alabama doctor ‘very tempted’ to break trans medical ban law
Selma’s Brown Chapel is nation’s most endangered historical structure, needs $5 million to be restored
Know this: Nobody wants to replace y’all.
Immigrants don’t want to replace y’all. They just want to improve life for themselves and their families, just as your ancestors did.
We don’t want to replace y’all.
We want to be able to shop for healthy food options. Just like y’all.
We want to be able to jog without fearing men in a pickup truck will end our life. Just like y’all.
We want access to quality health care. Just like y’all.
We want our children to attend challenging, robust schools. Just like y’all
We want to be able to rise economically, according to our gifts, skills, and determination. Just like y’all.
We want to be able to go into a bank and not immediately be deemed a credit risk. Just like y’all
We want to be able to walk through a store without being eyeballed and followed. Just like y’all.
We don’t want to replace y’all. Not at all. We just want to live.
Besides, by continuing exposing and espousing illogic, hateful, racist rhetoric and theories that only feed the weak, the insecure, and the fearful—by continuing to spawn monsters like the man in Buffalo—you’re replacing yourselves. Diminishing yourselves.
Nothing replaced the dinosaurs, after all.
They just became extinct.
More columns by Roy S. Johnson
Colorado arrest, jailing of Jerry Jeudy dilutes domestic violence’s abhorrent depths
Any reasonable, empathetic Republicans out there? Time to stand up
After my challenge, Alabama’s reasonable republicans stood up
Squash NFL naysayers, Colin Kaepernick, play in the USFL
Remembering Birmingham Holocaust survivor as Alabama remembers
Roy S. Johnson is a 2021 Pulitzer Prize finalist for commentary and winner of 2021 Edward R. Morrow prize for podcasts: “Unjustifiable”, co-hosted with John Archibald. His column appears in The Birmingham News and AL.com, as well as the Huntsville Times, the Mobile Press-Register. Reach him at [email protected], follow him at twitter.com/roysj, or on Instagram @roysj.