Congress Must Act to End Mainstreaming Hate

By Charles E. Lewis, Jr.

The heinous and brutal murders of ten Black residents in Buffalo once again shocked our senses. Although we knew something like this was bound to happen again, we are never prepared. The toxic combination of the malicious demonization of immigrants and nonwhite people coupled with ineffective controls on social media messaging radicalized another white supremacy warrior enough to travel hundreds of miles to shoot and kill people he knew nothing about. Their transgressions? Simply being black in America was an affront to white extremists. No one at Tops Friendly Market was there plotting to replace white people. They were simply trying to find a place in this country where they could lead normal lives. It has never been normal for nonwhite people in the United States from the time Europeans arrived on the continent, through three centuries of chattel slavery, until this very day. The possibility for normality just became infinitely worse.

With the advent of social media, likeminded conspiracy theorists can bond and multiply their hatred across space and time which increases the likelihood that a deranged hater will find the courage to do something awful to impress his compatriots. The mob mentally of hate knows no boundaries as we learned when “good people on both sides” gathered after church service to watch the lynching of defenseless black people. Now these events can be livestreamed and millions of “good people on all sides” can witness the slaughter of innocent people. Just as lynching was designed to traumatize and intimidate black people, livestreaming mass killings amplifies the chilling effect exponentially. Congress must act to stop this.


It will be a heavy lift. Outside of banning all livestreaming, how can broadcasting these inhumane events be halted? According to reports, just 22 people watched the livestreaming in real time, yet it remains available and millions have watched this deadly tragedy, further adding to the trauma of surviving loved ones. Twitch, the streaming service used by the killer, shut the livestream down minutes after the shooting began but not soon enough to prevent someone from recording it and passing it on to others.

This would appear to be the purview of the House and Senate Committees on Homeland Security. What we are witnessing with mass shootings in this country, especially those driven by hatred is an existential threat to the American way of life. That is not hyperbolic. What the white supremacy extremists are not considering is the fact that this economy and country cannot be managed and supported by white people alone. The United States needs immigrants and it needs people of all colors to function at their highest levels. Boomers may not see domestic terrorism as an immediate threat, but like global warming, its potential for destruction is metastasizing.

The idea of replacement theory is counterintuitive. Shame on conservatives and Republicans who have weaponized the idea to foment fear, division, and violence. Shame on them for blocking every proposal for sensible gun control. While the need for guns for protection is plausible, the enormous stockpiling of guns in the United States is out of control. The alleged assassin was able to purchase an AR-15-style assault rifle despite being flagged and vetted last year by the police for threatening to commit murder and suicide at his high school outside Binghamton, NY. He claimed to be joking but was taken into custody under a state mental health law where he underwent a psychiatric evaluation and released. New York’s red flag law compels individuals perceived as a threat to surrender their guns. According to police, they declined to invoke the law in this case because the suspect did not name a specific target.

Americans of all races and ethnicities must live with the fact that they could be victims of mass shootings because of the proliferation of guns in the United States. Reason would suggest this is not what the framers of the Constitution envisioned when they drafted the Second Amendment. We owe our current nightmare to activist conservative Supreme Court justices and the virulent greed of gun manufacturers who could care less who buys an assault rifle so long as they are profiting. A good portion of those profits find their way into the pockets of lawmakers who protect the gun suppliers.

Gun sales have increased significantly concurrent with the increased vitriolic demonization of political adversaries, which escalated leading up to and during the Trump presidency. Public opinion supporting tighter restrictions on gun sales has dropped precipitously during the last decade. People are afraid. As one New York Times op-ed stated yesterday: “Young Americans Are Stressed. They Are Angry. And They Can Swing Congress.” It is a lot to ask of young people—to change the trajectory of a nation. They seem determined. We all must work together.

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