On May 14, 2022, an 18-year-old white man killed 10 Black people and wounded three others at a TOPS supermarket in a Black neighborhood of Buffalo, N.Y. He drove more than 200 miles from his home in southern New York to massacre and maim Black people while dressed in body armor and armed with a semi-automatic rifle with a high-capacity magazine.
The suspect law enforcement officers apprehended after that massacre filmed and live-streamed his killing spree.
He wrote an online manifesto stating that his motive for killing Black people would be to prevent white people from losing control of the United States. This is a version of what is called “replacement theory.”
Let’s be clear. “Replacement theory” is white supremacy in different words.
White politicians and media pundits always have tried to dress up their bigotry by using different words. No matter what words they use, the goal of such racist rhetoric is to incite white physical, political, religious, commercial, social and other violence against people of color, Jews, immigrants and others they want to dominate.
Let’s be clear about something else. White sympathy never has stopped white supremacy.
“White sympathy never has stopped white supremacy.”
Sympathetic words and gestures by President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, will not stop bigots from killing Black people.
Sympathetic statements from law enforcement agencies that refused to monitor someone who threatened to murder people at a graduation ceremony a year ago are worthless to the survivors, relatives, friends and neighbors of people killed, maimed and traumatized during the Buffalo massacre.
Sympathetic statements from persons who embraced the “I want my country back” rhetoric of the Tea Party and Ted Cruz after the 2008 election of President Barack Obama are worthless.
Sympathetic statements and invitations to prayer from religious leaders who embraced Donald Trump’s racism and bigotry are worthless.
Sympathetic statements and appeals for unity from politicians, pundits and preachers who did not denounce Kyle Rittenhouse after he traveled from Illinois to Wisconsin with an assault rifle after people protested the shooting of a Black man in the back by a white police officer are worthless.
Sympathetic statements and appeals from people who support “stand your ground” laws are worthless.
People of color, Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ persons, immigrants and other “minoritized” people do not need or want sympathy. We want white people to stop raising racist killers.
Stop pretending surprise when the white boys and girls to whom you give guns and teach to love killing become mass murderers.
“Stop pretending surprise when the white boys and girls to whom you give guns and teach to love killing become mass murderers.”
Stop acting surprised when the people you raise on Fox News, right-wing radio and internet programs and in white supremacist religious settings become racists and fearmongers.
Stop asking people of color, Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ persons and immigrants to be patient with you, spend time with you, pray with you.
If you want our patience, fellowship and trust, stop the hatefulness.
Stop gaslighting bigotry.
Stop watching, listening and reading racist programs, books and attending schools established and maintained to promote white supremacy.
Stop lying about The 1619 Project, Critical Race Theory and intersectionality and denying systemic racism in your sermons, conferences, conversations and social media postings.
Stop denying that white violence against people of color is a consistent part of the history of this society.
White sympathy will not stop white supremacy. White people must do that. White people who are not willing to challenge, fight and defeat white supremacy in all its forms give cover to white supremacists.
Here is my message to white people:
- If you are white and are not challenging and working to eradicate white supremacy, you are part of the problem.
- If you are a religious leader or part of a congregation that is not challenging and fighting white supremacy, you are part of the problem.
- If you are not challenging and working to eradicate white supremacy — including the ways you are privileged by it and have internalized it — you are part of the problem.
- If you are a white educator or student who is not challenging and fighting white supremacy, you are part of the problem.
- If you are afraid to challenge and fight white supremacy, you are part of the problem.
Root out the white supremacy that infects institutions, systems, processes and policies throughout this society.
Unless and until you do these things, your “thoughts and prayers” are salt in the wounds of people who suffer because of white supremacy every day.
Wendell Griffen is an Arkansas circuit judge and pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark.
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