How To Stop Another Buffalo
Acts of domestic terrorism - driven by unadulterated & open white supremacy - keep happening at an alarming rate because we're letting them happen
Joint Composition | Ellison & Potter
Mass shootings are on the rise. We’ve been aware of this for some time now. And the frequency with which mass shooting terrorism driven by white supremacist-fueled racism has also been on the rise - and something we’ve also been keenly aware of. This has been bolstered directly and in large part by the dominance of very well organized and coordinated Republican-conservative-MAGA-Q’Anon-Trumpist activities in American politics, with the racist foot on the pedal since 2016. So, what are we doing about it?
White right political movements can easily be stopped by a relentless and vigorous unified counter of Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian and other aligned White and LGBTQI voters who are all, at the very least, steadfastly on the same page about the threat of fascist white right political terrorism. But, since that’s not the case at the moment and the entire political left - including Democrats and progressives - seems poised to allow itself to implode and collapse in the face of an aggressive assault from the Republican fascist political complex, we all keep letting events like Buffalo happen over and over again.
All this is happening because we are letting white supremacists take over because of weak, public “bothsiderism” discourse and by allowing platforms like FOX to continue serving as multi-media racism textbooks. We’ve become too lazy, weak and preoccupied with mass “living my best life” consumerism to fight back. Which, in essence, makes events like Buffalo preventable with focus. There is so much we can do and we aren’t. Instead of fighting like the Ukrainians, we’ve been surrending like cattle. That has to stop.
Terrorist events like Buffalo and others are completely preventable or can be dramatically reduced. That prevention comes with a full understanding that the same people banning books, removing Black history (or “CRT”) from the classroom, telling you to take your masks off, selling you ivermectin, destroying your voting rights, canceling your reproductive rights, while telling you obvious cataclysmic events like COVID and climate crisis are hoaxes are indeed the same terrorists who pulled the trigger in Buffalo. It’s all connected. These are the same people pulling ceaseless filibusters in the Senate to keep critical resources from you like child tax credits that actually reduced child poverty and hunger, and they are the same people who staged a coup and attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. The sooner we all come to that realization is the sooner we get mobilized to punish these terrorists roundly at the polls in November and that’s the sooner we save more lives and get to the business of strengthening a recovery while building a truly just, equitable and sustainable society.
Some additional thoughts on how to stop future domestic terror events like this one …
The most immediate, most useful and most effective response to events like what just transpired in Buffalo is the electoral response: Cut off the politics that creates and feeds this terrorism. The consistent purveyors of white terrorist ideology and proselytizing are, clearly, Republican elected officials on all levels. They are currently preparing to retake the U.S. House and U.S. Senate from Democrats, as well as expand their majorities in state legislatures, retake Governor seats while attempting to increase their share of Secretaries of State who control state election processes. Republican incumbents and candidates should be completely obliterated at the polls in November 2022, and there is a window still open for the mass political mobilization of voters to back more Democratic candidates on the local, state and federal level this year. Staying home and not participating in this year’s crucial state and federal elections, especially, means you are actively supporting white domestic terrorists who are hell bent on killing more Black people.
Electoral mobilization against Republicans also includes electoral awareness of and full voter activation against state, county and local-level judicial incumbents and candidates who are likely to oversee cases like what could be prosecuted in Erie County, New York. There will now be questions about what court has jurisdiction over this crime, and who the judge will be. In most states, state and federal judges are appointed by their Governors and then run for re-election. We need to make sure these terrorism incidents are not treated with the same carelessness and racist dismissiveness as the Kyle Rittenhouse case (the outcome of that case more than likely encouraged the event in Buffalo).
The other most immediate and most useful response is to, unabashedly, discuss this event in the context of its political origins and to, unapologetically, label it as terrorism. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not appropriate to discuss the politics and don’t let anyone tell you “it’s a hate crime.” If it had been a fully-armed Islamic fundamentalist blasting through a suburban grocery store full of White people - and when it was 9/11 - it would have been immediately designated as “an act of terrorism.” It’s not, as Erie County Sheriff John Garcia described it afterwards, a “straight-up racially motivated hate crime.” No: it’s white racist terrorism. Media outlets, elected officials and agencies responding to it should treat it as such. New official agency and journalistic standards should be set accordingly.
Policymakers, including current President Biden and Congressional Democrats, must start reviving and pushing for the reauthorization of the federal Assault Weapons Ban. Yes: there was one - it was passed in 1994 under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (otherwise infamously known as “The 1994 Crime Bill”) and it was designated as the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act. And, yes, it worked. According to Columbia University’s Louis Klarevas …
[T]he number of gun massacres during the period the ban was in effect fell by 37 percent compared with the 10-year period before the ban, and the number of people dying because of mass shootings fell by 43 percent. Klarevas reports that after the ban ended, there was a 183 percent increase in mass shootings and a 239 percent increase in deaths over the next 10 years.
The problem is that the Assault Weapons Ban needed re-authorization every 10 years. When it expired in 2004, naturally, it was pro-assault weapon Republicans in control of Congress in 2004 who chose not to re-authorize it. Biden was Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee back in 1994 and was instrumental in passing the Assault Weapons Ban. He’s president now, the legislation’s original House author, Chuck Schumer, is Senate Majority Leader now, as well. Both should use this moment to forcefully and very publicly push for the re-authorization of their Assault Weapons Ban.
Law enforcement agencies should be engaged in greater preparation for and more aggressive response to domestic terror events. One good place to start: purging officers with white supremacist affiliations and sympathies from police departments. But, too often, white domestic terrorists - such as the one arrested in Buffalo on Saturday - are treated with an unusual level of care and sensitivity by law enforcement after committing such atrocities … versus the brutality meted out by officers against unarmed Black men and women, for example. That must change. Law enforcement response must be visibly aggressive and swift as a deterrence against future domestic terrorists.
We need to also heavily leverage and use the federal Ku Klux Klan Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses Grant in 1871. That act clearly designated white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan as “domestic terrorists.” Grant was able to use the full force of the federal government and military to suppress white domestic terrorism against Black people in the South … and it worked. As researcher Eric Foner writes in ‘A Short History of Reconstruction’ …
By 1872, the federal government’s willingness to bring its legal and coercive authority to bear had broken the Klan’s back and produced a dramatic decline in violence throughout the South. Suppressed, the Klan didn’t reemerge until two generations later, in 1915.
That law still exists. President Biden should activate it immediately. If if worked back then during Reconstruction against white domestic terrorists, it’s time to put it back to work now against the descendants of those same white domestic terrorists. Figure it out.
In the meantime, Democrats in 2022 need to make immediate and direct correlations between Republicans, white domestic terrorists and terrorism events like what happened in Buffalo on Saturday.