Times-Herald (Vallejo)

Black victims of Buffalo shooting were killed by white supremacy


Do not dare look away from the bloody horror that left 10 dead in Buffalo. Do not dare write off the shooter as somehow uniquely “troubled.” Those Black victims were murdered by white supremacy, which grows today in fertile soil nourished not just by fringe-dwelling racists but by politician­s and other opportunis­ts who call themselves mainstream.

The 18-year-old white man suspected of gunning down Black people at a supermarke­t in a Black neighborho­od was reportedly a believer in “replacemen­t theory” — the notion of a vast conspiracy by Democrats and/or Jews to achieve dominance by “importing” people of color to diminish the political power of white people.

The idea is laughable on its face — but do not laugh. This paranoid fantasy killed nine Black worshipers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. It killed 11 Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018. It killed 23 people, mostly Latinos, at a Walmart in El Paso in 2019. And now we have the carnage in Buffalo.

Political leaders and commentato­rs from far left to far right will denounce Saturday's massacre. We will have the customary arguments about the need for sensible gun control and the need to focus on mental health. Gradually, the arguments will peter out. Nothing meaningful will change.

What we need to talk about is how politician­s and thought leaders on the right are using the vile poison of replacemen­t theory to further their own selfish ends — garnering campaign donations and votes, boosting television ratings, achieving fame. And we need to talk about how most of this demagoguer­y is coming from people who should know, and probably do know, that what they are telling potential killers, such as Payton Gendron, the man in custody after the Buffalo shooting, is complete fiction.

“Now, I know that the left and all the little gatekeeper­s on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term `replacemen­t,' if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson said last year. “But they become hysterical because that's what's happening actually. Let's just say it: That's true.”

I know Carlson. I was a frequent guest on his lowrated show on MSNBC years ago. He is smart enough and well-educated enough to know that there is no cabal plotting to “replace the current electorate.” But by playing with this racist dynamite, he has made his nightly show the highest-rated on cable television by far.

J.D. Vance, the Republican candidate for Senate in Ohio, claims on the campaign trail that Democrats are trying to import enough voters so that “Republican­s would never win a national election in this country ever again.” Vance is a best-selling author and a graduate of Yale

Law School.

Blake Masters, a Stanford-educated venture capitalist who is seeking the Arizona GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, said recently on a podcast: “If you connect the dots as a candidate for office and say, `Look, obviously the Democrats, they hope to just change the demographi­cs of our country, they hope to import an entirely new electorate,' man, they call you a racist and a bigot.”

Yes. That's exactly what I call those who spread such trash.

Sen. Ron Johnson, RWis., who is running for reelection this year, also flirts with replacemen­t theory. Last month, in criticizin­g President Joe Biden's immigratio­n policies as too lenient, he posed his answer in the form of a question: Is it really that “they want to remake the demographi­cs of America to ensure that they stay in power forever?”

A poll this month by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that nearly half of Republican­s agree at least to some extent with the propositio­n that there is “a group of people in this country who are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants who agree with their political views.” This isn't fringe stuff anymore. It's becoming central to the modern GOP's worldview.

The replacemen­t-theory grifters know that they are stoking the anxieties some white people feel about the nation's increasing diversity. They also know that they are playing with tropes that have long been popular among unapologet­ic white supremacis­ts, including those who infamously marched through Charlottes­ville bearing torches. And they must realize by now that some impression­able white people will take this rhetoric seriously — and act on it.

The accused Buffalo killer took pains to choose a location where he knew the victims would be people of color. Blame him for what he did. But also blame the prominent right-wing voices that egged him on.

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