The African American Policy Forum sends our deepest condolences to the families of the ten Black Americans murdered in the racially motivated attack this past weekend in Buffalo, New York. Our prayers are with all the victims of this outrage. We honor the names of those slain:
Roberta A. Drury of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 32
Margus D. Morrison of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 52
Andre Mackneil of Auburn, N.Y. – age 53
Aaron Salter of Lockport, N.Y. – age 55
Geraldine Talley of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 62
Celestine Chaney of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 65
Heyward Patterson of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 67
Katherine Massey of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 72
Pearl Young of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 77
Ruth Whitfield of Buffalo, N.Y. – age 86
We also acknowledge the collective trauma that these murders have visited upon the Black community along with all marginalized populations. The Buffalo massacre drives home for millions of us the horrifying reality that we must once again live under the threat that racial terrorism can take our lives at any place, at any time.
It is a threat that many of this weekend’s victims were born into, lived through, and surely hoped was behind them.
In 1936, the year that 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield was born, the symbol of the NAACP’s nationwide campaign against racial terror was a banner hung from the window of its New York office every day a Black person was lynched. That year alone, eight Black people were lynched, and countless more lost their lives to other forms of racially motivated violence.
The passage of time has amplified the belief that the virulent racism of the past would eventually become a relic of it. As the twentieth century concluded, many believed that the formal repudiation of white supremacist values embodied in our law and our culture would support a truly multiracial democracy and that Black people could go about their daily lives without the worry that their lives could be taken in a fit of racist rage. Racial terrorism would die out with the generations weaned on it—or so the more hopeful among us believed.
But those hopes cannot survive in a world in which an American child, born just four years before the election of President Barack Obama, was so wholly indoctrinated into a lethal narrative of white victimhood that he became a weapon of Black destruction. That NAACP banner from the early 20th century has become unmoored from a distant and forsaken past in the nightmare now before us. No longer a historical marker of outgrown bigotries, hatreds, and terror, it flashes across our consciousness in this here-and-now moment of collective grief. This symbol of the past reminds us that if our nation cannot confront the imperative of dismantling white supremacy root and branch, the bloodletting will not end with the terror inflicted last weekend.