By Chris B. Bennett
We are a few weeks removed from the horrific shooting in Buffalo, and yet we’ve already seen the sunsetting of the media coverage of this tragic event, as the news cycle has shifted to the mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and now Tulsa, Oklahoma.
As authorities and families in Texas look for answers as to why and what went wrong, there is no question about what happened in Buffalo — they were attacked because they were Black.
Being Black in America is not easy. Although some make it look easy, they too leave their homes every day and hope, wish, and pray that they make it home to see their loved ones at the end of the day.
Driving While Black, Shopping While Black, Worshipping While Black, Minding My Own Business While Being Black, and even Walking/Jogging and Sleeping While Black are common activities that can go wrong, do go wrong, and add to the growing list of “those we serve” at local funeral homes across this country.
Unfortunately, when it comes to being attacked for being Black, we have seen the lack of justice so many times that we are relegated to shaking our heads, shedding a few tears, and understanding that these are things that happen to “Just Us.”
The notion of “Just Us” is the main reason we collectively embrace the term and movement of Black Lives Matter, because it appears that America cares more about the lives of everyone except Black folks.
In 2021, the U.S. House and Senate swiftly passed an anti-Asian hate crimes bill that was signed just two months after a gunman killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women, during a shooting spree of three massage parlors in Atlanta. The culprit later told police that his motive for the shooting was not because he hated Asian people but because he had a sexual addiction that was at odds with his Christianity.
Now, this is not to diminish what took place in Atlanta or to say that Asian Americans do not face hatred or racism in the same fashion as African Americans. But my point is that the House and Senate can do whatever they want to do when they have the motivation and real compassion for the victims and the demographic group that they represent.
And so we must ask the question: If Black lives really matter in America, why didn’t Congress put forth an anti-Black hate crimes bill in 2015 when a young man with ties to white supremacy shot and killed 9 Black people at a Black church — Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church — in South Carolina?
Where is the compassion needed to bring forth such a bill right now in the wake of 10 Black people being shot and killed at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York?
Ultimately the debate taking place right now related to mass shootings centers around gun control — an issue that won’t be resolved anytime soon because of the political influence of gun lovers, gun manufacturers, and die-hard groups of “patriots.” For politicians, this is the easy way out of addressing some of the real problems in our society because they know that the likelihood of a compromise on gun control is something they can campaign on for years.
It’s time for policy-makers in America to focus on the real issues we need them to address. We need them to talk about race, racism, and hatred. We need them to send a message that all lives matter and increase mandatory jail times for people who commit crimes against anyone because of their race, especially those that are committed against Black people. We know there is a long list of Black people who have received “Just Us’ and very few who have received justice.
George Floyd – Just US
Ahmaud Arbery– Just Us
Tamir Rice – Just Us
Rodney King – Just Us
Breonna Taylor – Just Us
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church – Just US
Emmet Till – Just Us
There is more than enough time on any newscast to talk about the shooting and the aftermath in both Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York. We don’t have to choose one over the other. It’s time for us to turn the bright lights on Buffalo so that the people of that city can get the justice they deserve.
Tell your congressional delegation we need to send a message to America that hate crimes against Black folks will no longer get swept under the rug. Tell them to pass a hate crime bill that specifically protects the interests and lives of Black folks in the United States — just like they did for Asian Americans.