Beyond the Buffalo Massacre: Why White Terrorism is so Dangerous

Jace Boland, Columnist

On Saturday, May 14, 10 people were shot and killed inside a supermarket in Buffalo, NY. The shooter was an 18-year-old white supremacist named Payton Gendron, who had planned the attack for months. He intentionally sought out a target with the highest Black population he could find, scouted out the supermarket to find the times where the most Black people visited the store, and live-streamed the murders of 10 innocent people. 

Gendron had online records of his belief in a theory called “replacement theory,” which claims that Black Americans and immigrants are trying to displace white Americans and, in Gendron’s words, “replacers” who “​​invade our lands, live on our soil, attack and replace our people.” This white supremacist rhetoric was also cited by the terrorist responsible for the attacks on Al Noor and on the Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left 51 dead and 40 injured. Gendron watched the live stream of those 2019 attacks before executing his own. Replacement theory can also be seen in the white supremacist marches in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2019, Fox News, and coming from politicians like New York Representative Elise Stefanik, GOP Senate Candidate Blake Masters, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, and a simultaneously shocking and unsurprising number of others.

The danger of white right-wing terrorism is that despite making up the majority of terrorist attacks on the United States, it’s still painted in mainstream media as unrelated, random attacks by “troubled” or “mentally ill” individuals. Per the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “right-wing extremists perpetrated two-thirds of the attacks and plots in the United States in 2019 and over 90 percent between January 1 and May 8, 2020.” It’s no accident that a person of color carrying out an attack is immediately an “immigration crisis,” Al-Qaeda or ISIS-related, and/or reflective of the entire Muslim population of the United States. The difference when a white hand pulls a trigger is so tangible it’s sickening. Suddenly the terrorist was bullied, mentally ill, and suffering from a psychotic break. And they’re arrested alive. The reason white terrorists are never labeled as such is the same reason the Ku Klux Klan to this day is not recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States government, despite being responsible for countless bombings, lynchings, kidnappings, and torture in their nearly 200-year history. The government can’t openly condemn the KKK because they’d lose their voter pool. That would have sounded like a controversial statement up until the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. The crowd was littered with Nazi paraphernalia, Confederate flags, and white supremacist symbols. Numerous lawmakers were found to have been involved in the organization of these riots, such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert, and many others. 

The “War on Terror” is a lie. The US military has been overseas “fighting terrorism” for decades, while the real danger isn’t in Afghanistan or Iraq, but in our supermarkets, places of worship, schools, and streets. Right-wing domestic terrorism is a symptom of the legacy of white supremacy in the United States.