To Be Black and Safe – Reflections on the Buffalo Mass Shooting ♥
Dear campus community,
May 14 began like any other Saturday afternoon for customers at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York. The day ended quite differently, however. Gun shots shattered their routine activity. Ten of the 13 victims were killed—all Black. Local police have arrested the gunman, who was unharmed.
There is no mystery why the perpetrator, a white male teenager, targeted this store in a predominantly Black neighborhood. The shooter described his motivation in a manifesto and live streamed his attack. Drawing on replacement theory, he regarded the very existence of Black people and immigrants as posing an existential threat to a white supremacist vision of society, one for and about white people. Even as their investigations continue, local and federal authorities have described this mass shooting as a racially motivated hate crime.
The Buffalo mass shooting resembles a distressing pattern of other targeted killing of diverse community members engaged in everyday life. Among these included Asian salon workers in Atlanta (March 2021), Latino shoppers at Walmart in El Paso, Texas (August 2019), Muslim worshippers at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand (March 2019), Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh (October 2018), and Gay men and women enjoying a night out in Orlando, Florida (June 2016).
The brutal murder of Black men and women last Saturday recalls the events that took place on June 17, 2015, at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The members of the Bible study group warmly welcomed a stranger to worship with them. At the time, they did not know that the 21-year-old was an avowed white supremacist. Armed, he killed nine members of the church, including the senior pastor and State Senator Clementa C. Pinckney. Then the shooter posted his intention in an online manifesto. So did the Buffalo assailant nearly seven years later.
The meaning of the mass shooting in Buffalo, like the one in Charleston, begins with families. Knowing that the final moments of their loved ones lives were filled with terror is a burden that no one should ever know. This burden is made heavier with the knowledge that a white teenager unilaterally and publicly communicated that the victims should not exist simply because they were Black. The killing of 10 Black people in a supermarket is a reminder of a much larger landscape of anti-Black terror and intimidation in the United States. Earlier in the new year the FBI reported 57 bomb threats in the new year that were directed at Black churches as well as Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Many took place during Black History month in February.
The mass killing at Tops Friendly Market poses a question: Is it possible to be Black and safe anywhere in the United States? Confronting this question is critical to building a culture where Black people thrive. To this end, the Office of Inclusive Excellence will use time for its scheduled Black Thriving module to host a special virtual forum on Healing in the Face of Extremism at 3-4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17, to reflect and support the UCI community. This forum is organized to broaden the scheduled session on Change the Culture through Personal, Professional, and Institutional Accountability to invite all UCI students, faculty, and staff to be in fellowship during this difficult time. Please register online. This forum is part of a series of programs that are open to the campus community to learn together.
Film Screening: Commemorating George Floyd: Who We Are: A Chronicle Racism
OIE is making available the link to view this documentary from May 23-27. A virtual interview with filmmaker Jeffery Robinson is scheduled for Thursday, May 26 at 12 p.m. For more information, consult https://uciadvance.wufoo.com/forms/rfc8cs10b9stm3/
Call for Proposals: Confronting Extremism: Community, Thriving and Welcome
Due on June 24, proposals are requested for projects that rebuild, reframe and transform our members, institution, and communities for inclusive excellence. View details at:
Anti-Blackness in the United States Modules: Structures and Mechanism that De-Value Black People
Fall course offerings coming soon. View current descriptions at:
Confronting Extremism Program
The program is designed to fortify our resilience as a campus community while advancing our commitment to inclusive excellence. Launched in the wake of the 2017 Charlottesville extremist violence, the Confronting Extremism Program mobilizes UCI’s research, teaching, and service mission to understand and inform how we respond as a university community.
Take the Pledge: Black Thriving Initiative
The pledge is an open invitation to UCI members to publicly commit to building a culture where Black people thrive.
Join us in solidarity on May 17.
Douglas M. Haynes, Ph.D. (Pronouns: he/him/his)
Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Chief Diversity Officer
Director, ADVANCE Program
Professor of History