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Buffalo....and Other Places

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On Tuesday, President Biden and First Lady, Jill Biden traveled to Buffalo in the wake of the horrific shooting by a young white male, a shooting directed at black shoppers which left ten people dead. During his speech, Biden specifically attacked white racism and white supremacy. A text of his speech can be read here.

There have been a lot of negative reactions to Biden’s speech, mostly from conservatives. Many reacted as though the President was singling out white people in general and implying that the idea of “white supremacy” was still prevalent in this country. It has also been pointed out that the shooter’s “manifesto’ clearly indicates a sick mind and leaves doubt as to whether he was on the left or right of the political spectrum. The truth is we have a mental health crisis in the country, a  crisis that accounts for so much of the violence committed. What happened in Buffalo is part of that.

It is pretty clear that the shooter was motivated by anti-black animus, and that is to be condemned. But are we to hold all white people responsible for the actions of a clearly-deranged individual? How many white people in this country applauded this act? A very small fringe, I would argue. 

As for the notion of white supremacy: Yes, it was very prevalent when I was growing up in the 40s and 50s, especially in the South, where it had the force of Jim Crow laws. White supremacy today has no force of law. The vast majority of people of all colors in America reject it. In short, it has no currency, and is only whispered among fringe individuals in dark places. Yes, there is racism and hate, which comes from many sources and directions.

This week, in Laguna Woods, a small community near Irvine in Orange Country, California, a 68-year-old Chinese man walked into a church where a group of Taiwanese parishioners was holding an event. Five people were wounded and one killed. The motive: As a child, the shooter had grown up in Taiwan, and as a Chinese national from the mainland, he was subject to discrimination of some sort, a wound he carried with him all his life. His motive was a Chinese hatred of Taiwanese people (who consider themselves ethnically different from the Chinese). President Biden did not go to Laguna Woods and talk about an Asian-on-Asian attack. 

A few days before Buffalo, a large number of people were shot and wounded in Milwaukee in a series of shootings in the wake of an NBA playoff game involving the hometown Milwaukee Bucks. The victims were black, and it appears the shooters were also black. Joe Biden did not go to Milwaukee to talk about a black-on-black attack. For that matter, he could go to Chicago just about any Monday to talk about black-on-black murders that explode with regularity on the weekends. What happened in Milwaukee and what happens regularly in Chicago is a persistent and recurring tragedy that our political leaders will not confront or talk about, not because the dead victims are black, rather because the perpetrators are black.

In addition, on May 11, a shooter entered a Korean-owned salon in Dallas and opened fire, wounding three Asians. The man charged is black and reportedly professed a hatred of Asians. Joe Biden did not go to Dallas. (He did mention Dallas in passing in his speech.)

Speaking of black attacks on Asians, this is happening with increased frequency in places like New York City. Our leaders and the media bemoan the attacks against Asians, which is proper, but will not discuss the fact that most attackers have been black, just as most attackers against Jews on the streets of our cities tend to be black.

To be fair to President Biden, he can’t go everywhere, and of all the incidents mentioned above, the Buffalo attack is clearly the worst in terms of loss of life, and the personal words of any president can be comforting to the victims’ families. If racial animus is the motive, it is proper to point that out as well, but in confronting the problem of racially-inspired violence, we must condemn all forms. Of course, it is only when the attacker is white does that fit the narrative of Joe Biden and our media.

Yes, we have racial divisions in our country, which we must work to eliminate, but, while not excusing white racism for one instant, it is hardly the only ingredient in our racial problems. Community and religious leaders of all colors-not to mention our mental health professionals- need to be tackling this problem. And we, as everyday people, need to condemn the idea of the supremacy of any group.


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