Blood On Their Hands:
Laying the Blame for Buffalo Where it Belongs
In June 2015, President Barack Obama stood at the podium at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston and started to sing.
Obama delivered the eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney, murdered with eight other Black members of his congregation, all gunned down by a white supremacist who opened fire during their evening bible study.
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch; like me! I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.
It is true. We are blind. But we still do not see.
This great country was founded on stolen land and built by enslaved human beings. Until we see that truth with cleared-eyed vision, we will never realize the true promise of our founding documents.
“Amazing Grace” promises that our democracy can be redeemed. But we must first see the deep fissures in our foundational history: brutality, violence, and racism. “See,” means to examine it closely, reckon with it, and own it.
Until we do, we will be stuck in this loop of self-destruction. It will not end. It will destroy us. We will destroy ourselves.
We’re In The Same Boat Now.
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. ~Emma Lazarus
We are a nation of immigrants. Even before the “Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World” was officially unveiled in October 1886, we welcomed the so-called “new” immigrants to our shores: Germans, Italians, Irish, Welsh, and Poles. Immigration from Asia and Latin America was also underway.
Jews came too, of course, starting in the mid-1800s. Increasingly at the beginning of the twentieth century— millions of Jews left their homelands for America, surging first during the Russian Pogroms, then again as Hitler stormed Europe.
But all this immigration to our shores long predates Lady Liberty.
The Spanish — not the English — were the first explorers from Europe to settle in New World in 1500. The Portuguese arrived in the 1500s, as well. Then came the French, who, according to the Smithsonian, arrived here in 1564 to establish a Protestant colony at Fort Caroline (near what is now Florida). Other Europeans followed, with the English establishing their first colony at Jamestown in Virginia (then Tsenacommacah) in 1607.
Talk about “replacement.”
This new colony replaced a vast community, the Powhatans, that thrived on the shores of this fertile land. The Powhatans had a population of nearly 15,000. With the colonization of Jamestown, the Powhatans were forced off their land through diseases brought by the English to which they had no immunity and warfare. The Powhatan population was mightily depleted (although their descendants still live in the area today).
“Settlement” is just another word for “immigration.” Or invasion. Whatever we choose to call it, the reasons for migration were much the same then as they are now: people emigrate out of desperation and search for a better life, human rights, and dignity. But one group’s “settlement” is another’s “occupation,” displacing those entrenched before the newcomers. Often the encounters are aggressive, hostile, and violent.
The Pilgrims who so famously founded Plymouth Rock (ostensibly with help from the Wampanoag people) came expressly for religious freedom. They were desperate, jamming over 100 men, women, and children into a small sailboat (roughly 100 feet long, 22 feet wide). The Mayflower was no luxury liner — it had no windows, no beds. The Pilgrims carried their chamber pots, full and sloshing with detritus, to the boat's edge and dumped whatever remained overboard. But as Separatists who wanted to practice their austere brand of Protestantism, they had no choice but to flee the king who demanded strict adherence to his Church of England. They defied death to come here.
Ten years later, other Puritans followed, and Plymouth Colony grew. The Quakers followed and arrived in Maryland in 1656, led by the “Mother of American Quakerism,” Elizabeth Harris. Then the Mennonites came (1663). Salzburgers (1734). Lutherans (1838–39). Not to mention the Catholics who have been here since the Spanish arrived.
We have been a nation of immigrants from the start.
And as Dr. King is often quoted: “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
Blood On Their Hands
This man who shot and killed ten people in Buffalo first published a 180-page racist screed online. In it, he touts something called the “Great Replacement Theory” — a conspiracy theory that spins the lie that immigration policy is a plot designed to “replace” the political power of white people.
He points for inspiration to other mass shootings tied to other manifestos of hate: those of the Australian man who attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, killing 51 people, and the mass shooting at Walmart in El Paso that same year, resulting in 20 deaths. They, too, cited the white supremacist Replacement Theory.
On Twitter, people correctly suggest there are multiple iterations of this Replacement Theory purported by anti-immigrants, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and, increasingly and disturbingly, those elected to political office.
(1) The invasion theory: the migrant invasion must be thwarted before it overtakes white America;
(2) The voter replacement theory: immigration policy is secretly designed by unseen left-leaning elites to dilute the voting power of whites;
(3) The antisemitism theory: Jewish elites are responsible for helping brown people gain entry to the country to change its racial demographics.
So yes, many conspiratorial strains, but all rooted in the same base human emotions: anger, fear, and hate.
“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” ~These “14 Words” spoken by David Lane before he died in have become a mantra for white supremacists and were quoted by the Buffalo shooter.
The Buffalo gunman expressly said he was targeting the Black community.
First, the notion that Black people are “replacing” anybody is nonsensical. We were here in the earliest days of this land, second only to Native Americans. African explorers came to the New World during the Age of Exploration, as early as the 1500s. Enslaved Africans arrived as early as 1526 aboard the Spanish expedition ship that landed at an outpost in what is now South Carolina (they rebelled in 1526, leading the Spanish to abandon the Settlement). Sir Francis Drake brought scores of enslaved Africans, whom he’d plundered from the Spanish to Roanoke Island in 1586. And, of course, Africans were infamously entrapped and hauled to the shores of what is now Virginia in 1619, the date many now mark as the official start of the American slave trade.
But beyond the absurdity of Black people as here to replace anybody is the urgency of the national crisis before us.
Simply put, This Has Got To Stop.
Buffalo, El Paso, Charleston. Eight people shot dead (six women of Asian descent) at an Atlanta shopping center last year, and eleven murdered at a Pittsburg synagogue in 2018. The 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville which left beautiful Heather Heyer dead. The hateful list goes on and back throughout our history. In 2012 the shooting at the Sikh Gurdwara temple in Wisconsin in which the white supremacist gunman killed six worshippers.
White supremacy travels back through our history to the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. The atrocities of the Civil War. This corrupt strain in our culture dates back to the founding of our democracy. It is up to us to see that it doesn’t continue to march forward.
Blood on their Hands.
So then, let’s lay the blame: Tucker Carlson, Matt Gates. Elise Stefanik and the whole GOP.
Tucker Carlson, in his racist cynicism, has promoted the Replacement Theory more than 400 times (see The New York Times), including promoting the downright whacky idea that unnamed “elites” are working behind the scenes to substitute white voters with immigrants from the “Third World.”
“I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest for the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World.” Carlson actually said this nonesense in April 2021.
Which takes us directly to Matt Gaetz. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
Last year, the Florida Congressman tweeted that Carlson was “correct” in his conspiracy theories 👆🏽about racial replacement. The tweet has now resurfaced in the wake of the Buffalo shootings. 👇🏽
But Gaetz is far from alone.
Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia” and Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina have espoused racist views aligned with Replacement Theory. GOP House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California is against the ropes for failing to get his members in line. Senate candidate JD Vance, who edged out his opponent in last month’s Ohio primary thanks to Donald Trump’s endorsement, is another vocal exponent of the discredited theory.
New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, now the GOP Conference Chair in the House, put out an advertisement last year that said: “radical Democrats” were planning a “PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION.” The ad suggested Democrats would somehow grant amnesty to immigrants thereby creating a liberal majority in Washington.
Going from bad to worst, Stefanik has not backed away from her ugly and false allegations but has instead doubled down since the Buffalo shootings, demonstrating a complete disregard for human life, especially #BlackLives.
Demonstrating who and what they are, House Republicans elected Stefanik to her №3 leadership role after they ousted Wyoming’s Liz Cheney one year ago. Cheney has been fierce about calling out her fellow GOP lawmakers who continue to align with Donald Trump.
Which gets us to the Grand Old Party. Have they lost their minds? That is not a rhetorical question. I am asking: seriously. Have they lost it?
It’s as if the Dark Lord has taken control of Republicans, setting them loose in the Triwizard Maze to find the seven Horcruxes. It’s a desperate bid to sustain immortality. But hold up. This is real life. Not fiction.
So, I don’t know what is more frightening: 50% of Republican leaders believe this absurd Replacement Theory or the more likely chance that they don’t but will say and do anything to retain their hold on power.
Sure, they didn’t expressly tell this man to go out and shoot anybody. But they didn’t have to. That is their underlying message. “Get rid of these Black and brown people before they get rid of you.”
That bile they are preaching is what leads a young disturbed white supremacist to buy a Bushmaster XM-15, trick it out for additional ammo, drive 200 miles, and open fire. The racist Replacement Theory Tucker Carlson is pushing, along with these members of the far-right in Congress, is getting people killed.
People with power who promote Replacement Theory have blood on their hands.
They need to be held to account. That accounting is their removal from their positions of power.
The only replacement we need in this country is to replace anyone who has been spewing hate with leaders who display the grace we need to build our More Perfect Union.