We are seeing an epidemic of hate-driven violence, and its toll will only worsen if we as a country continue to deny its existence.
By Janet Murguía, UnidosUS President and CEO
I watched coverage of the senseless mass shooting of Black Americans at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York with a sickening feeling. What has also troubled me is that the feeling was so familiar.
It was the same sense of dread, anger, and profound grief I’ve felt time and time again as our communities continue to suffer and our nation fails to seriously address the root issues that cause these attacks. Buffalo is not an isolated incident but part of an epidemic of hate fueled by white supremacy and allowed to flourish by silent complicity.
Three years ago, in the wake of another tragic shooting by a racist gunman who drove hours from his home to attack a group of people simply because of who they are, we expressed our grave concerns in an op-ed. We condemned then-President Trump for his bigotry, and his use of the term “invasion” to describe Mexican immigrants, which we believe influenced the shooter to murder innocent Latinos and immigrants at a Walmart in El Paso given that he used “Hispanic invasion’ in his manifesto. But we also took to task Republican leaders for their unwillingness and refusal to challenge the white supremacist-driven hate coming from all corners of their party.
And yet today little has changed. The “replacement theory” that led to the Buffalo shooting—a destructive fiction that claims Democrats are trying to replace white voters with “third world” people—is still being given fuel by top Republican officials in Congress, again without pushback from the leaders of their party. And while the largest tech companies have all pledged action to stem hate and misinformation on their platforms, they are still severely underestimating not only the level of the problem, but also their responsibility to address it.
The stoking of hate for political gain and the toxic discourse we see on the Internet come at a price. But right now that price is not being paid by elected officials, media figures, or tech companies. It has been paid by Asian American spa workers in Atlanta, Jewish worshippers in Pittsburgh, Latino and Black shoppers in El Paso and Buffalo, and many others. And our communities will keep paying the price until our country finally takes the scourge of hate and white supremacy as seriously as the issue demands.
EPIDEMIC OF HATE-DRIVEN VIOLENCE
What we are seeing, in fact, is an epidemic of hate-driven violence. And the toll of this epidemic will only worsen if we as a country continue to deny its existence.
Earlier this week, as part of a civil rights coalition response to the massacre in Buffalo and another at a Taiwanese Church in Orange County, California, we joined partners led by the National Urban League and the Anti-Defamation League calling for passage of the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act. We also pointed out the need to formalize a focus on domestic terrorism at federal agencies, and for the White House to convene a summit to raise visibility and develop prevention strategies in response to the ongoing threat of hate and extremism.
Combatting this epidemic means holding elected officials accountable for their words, and holding others accountable for their silence through our voice and our vote. It means enacting laws that provide guardrails on the Internet to prevent the unchecked proliferation of hate, bigotry, and mis- and disinformation. It means finally passing and strengthening common sense gun laws that keep weapons of destruction out of the hands of those with mental health issues or who trigger red flags.
And it means hearing from those outside of the targeted groups that hate based on bigotry and white supremacy are unacceptable and hurt all of us, not just those who are under attack. No community is immune from the consequences of hate, and it will take all communities to fight it. And as we work toward a day when white supremacy no longer poses a threat, the least we can do is make sure that going about our ordinary lives should be a right and expectation, not a luxury available only to some.