Written by Riya Kohli, Advocacy Associate for Interfaith Alliance
Each week, Interfaith Alliance publishes a news piece or op-ed aimed at informing its supporters and community of a topic important to the organization. Ahead of this week, Interfaith Alliance’s staff discussed writing about The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ Humanity Over Hate campaign, a week of action to mark the anniversary of the signing of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act.
Then, on Saturday afternoon, news broke of a massacre in a supermarket in Buffalo. Local and federal law enforcement quickly discovered that the shooting was a hate-motivated attack targeting Black Americans. Thirteen people were shot. Eleven of the victims were Black, two were white. Ten people died.
White supremacy is an ideology. Iterations of its beliefs can be found across the internet, in houses of worship, and even in the halls of Congress. Hateful rhetoric must be addressed, but it is individuals that turn violent ideas into action as the shooter did in Buffalo.
This man made a decision to arm himself and travel to a place to commit a crime that he saw as a fulfillment of his racist, xenophobic, and antisemitic views. He terrorized a community that will feel the effects of this incident for years to come. He went into a supermarket, a fundamental part of nearly every community in this country, and took away something everybody has a right to: safety. There is no freedom when we have to look over our shoulders in the produce section.
Buffalo lost 10 members of its community and the sense of security everyone should be able to feel in this country. Ruth Whitfield’s four children lost their mother. Our national debate lost a gun control advocate in Katherine Massey. Deacon Heyward Patterson’s church lost an avid volunteer. The victims of this attack are all these things and so much more. They leave holes in their communities and in the lives of their loved ones.
As we continue to learn more about what happened on Saturday, it is essential that officials at all levels of government allow the affected community in Buffalo to inform their actions. Those community members know best what would make them feel safe after their security in a typically mundane setting was threatened so horrifically.
This week’s planned commemoration of a major piece of legislation aimed at preventing hate crimes is tragically preceded by the mass shooting in Buffalo. As we mourn the victims of this shooting, we are reminded that our accomplishments represent the beginning, not the end, of our commitment to fighting for a safer future. Succeeding in this fight can only be achieved by coming together. Affected communities will always come together to mourn and their allies will always support them. We refuse to let acts of hate divide us – now, and for the future.