Terry Manning

Buffalo shooting repeats a pattern we know too well


I hadn’t planned on writing about a mass shooting this week. My original plan was to talk about the finale of the Netflix crime drama “Ozark” and what reactions to that finale say about the show and about us. 

I might submit that column later if it doesn’t start to feel outdated – something not likely to ever happen to a column about gun violence in this country. 

A gunman, who’ll get no notoriety by being named here, drove about four hours from his home to a predominantly Black area of Buffalo, N.Y., and opened fire at a Tops grocery store. Thirteen people were shot by the attacker; 10 of them died. 

The victims include a retired police officer who served as security at the store and 77-year-old Pearly Young, who ran a food pantry for more than 25 years in service to the city’s needy. 

Almost all the shooting victims were Black, which fit the killer’s intent. He purposefully sought out an area with a high density of Black residents so his attack would help offset the “replacement theory” notions he subscribed to, wherein minorities are being promoted to replace white Americans. 

Replacement theory sparked the violent 2017 “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, Va. (“Jews will not replace us”), continues to inspire much current anti-immigration rhetoric and has even been pointed to as a motive behind the recent uptick in conservative legislative action against abortion rights. 

If white women can be denied abortions, the theory goes, it will help offset the higher reproductive rates among minorities in this country. This, despite the fact Black women have abortions at a rate five times higher than white women. 

If you’ve never heard such nonsense, you’re probably not a faithful viewer of Fox News, specifically of commentator Tucker Carlson. He regularly promotes this racist nonsense on his show. 

But let’s get back to the gunman, an 18-year-old white male who wrote a manifesto detailing his racist thoughts and plans. He streamed the assault live in video on social media. 

Interestingly enough, he was already being monitored by authorities over things he had written in high school that raised concerns about his mental health, including expressing a desire to stage a shooting at graduation, according to reports. There is some concern over how the people who were monitoring him missed an escalation starting in January that resulted in the attack last week. 

The weapon he used, an AR-15, was purchased legally, though New York Gov. Kathy Hochul questioned how he obtained the high-capacity magazine he used with the gun. Hochul raised the possibility he or an acquaintance might have purchased the magazine across the state line in Pennsylvania. Chicagoans are very familiar with the dangers of guns purchased under looser gun laws in neighboring states. 

I haven’t seen any media reports refer to the weapon as an “assault rifle.” I don’t know if this is a capitulation to wiseacres who line up after every mass shooting to criticize the media for calling weapons assault rifles when they technically are not. 

I will say, if that’s the thing you worry about most after a mass-casualty event, you should probably get off the Internet and spend some time with the deity of your choice. Or maybe just spend some quiet time alone, trying to figure out where you misplaced your humanity. 

In the face of overwhelming evidence, the federal government has decided to investigate the shooting as a white supremacist terror attack — when the evidence isn’t overwhelming, authorities try to blame everything except racism. 

As a society we like to scapegoat mental health, which exonerates us because, “Hey, you can’t stop somebody from being crazy.” 

But you can justify killing a killer, and despite this, police peacefully took into custody yet another white man who had just gunned down a bunch of innocent Black people. 

It’s exhausting. 

We are stuck in a cycle of violence, followed by outrage, followed by inconsequential response, followed by more violence. There’s an anecdotal definition of insanity that points to doing the same things over and over and expecting different outcomes, but as we’ve already said, you can’t stop crazy. 

I’m starting to wonder if we even want to. 

Terry E. Manning lives and works in Savannah, Ga. He is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at teemanning@gmail.com. 


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