Two weekend mass shootings show that racial violence and hate have always had a place in the U.S.
It is not a spike in white or racial supremacy, it’s what the country was founded on, and it continues to happen.
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In one weekend, 11 Americans lost their lives to racially-motivated gun violence, and for most citizens who were not personally impacted by the shootings, it was business as usual.
On Saturday, May 14, the country was once again shook by the lethal impacts of white supremacist idealogy, combined with the frustrating lack of gun control.
That day, locals were enjoying an afternoon getting groceries at a supermarket, unaware of the violence that was on its way.
Around noon, Payton Gendron, of Conklin, New York, arrived outside Tops Friendly Market, which is located in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo.
At 2:30 p.m, Gendron was wearing body armor and recording via a helmet camera when he opened fire.
The gunman was broadcasting the shooting to a small audience on the digital streaming platform, Twitch. The platform reportedly deleted the video in less than two minutes after it streamed.
According to police, Gendron began shooting in the parking lot. Once inside the market, he killed a security guard, and then proceeded to target customers in the aisles.
At one point, which was seen in the video, pointed his weapon at a fellow white person who was hiding behind the checkout counter, but he didn’t shoot, and said: “Sorry!”
When police arrived on the scene, Gendron put his rifle to his own neck, but decided to surrender instead and dropped the gun as the officers demanded.
The 18-year-old killed 10 people, most of whom were Black. Upon reviewing 672 pages of messages posted online by Gendron, the Washington Post discovered that this incident was carefully premeditated.
Ignorant folks in my TL saying “stop making the Buffalo shooting about race.”— Qasim Rashid, Esq. (@QasimRashid) May 15, 2022
He self identified as a white supremacist, targeted Black people, believed the “replacement theory” propaganda,& had “NI**ER” written on his AR-15. It IS about race no matter how much you white wash it
As early as December 2021, Gendron has made plans to murder those he regards as “replacers,” which references a racist conspiracy theory that open immigration policies and high birthrates for Black people are “displacing” white voters.
Gendron’s messages revealed that the Buffalo Tops store was “attack area 1” due to its ethnic makeup. He also identified two other locations in the area as places to “shoot all Blacks.” The plans were detailed, with all the areas mapped out and exact times given for when the attacks will occur. Gendron also estimated that at least 30 people will be killed.
In a separate 180-page manifesto that Gendron allegedly published online, he repeatedly referred to the “great replacement” extremist theory.
The theory encourages a set of racist and antisemetic paranoid falsehoods, including the myth that an “elite group” of Jewish people and Democrats are replacing white Americans with Black, Hispanic and other people of color, with the intention of “exterminating” the white race.
This visual tribute is dedicated to the victims of the mass shooting and murders in Buffalo. Honor them. pic.twitter.com/hPpJl54NEc— Jen White-Johnson 🗣✊🏽 (@jtknoxroxs) May 17, 2022
Other online messages posted by Gendron showed that he had been visiting the Tops supermarket on multiple occasions, scouting out the ethnic makeup of the shoppers.
According to the posts, there were “many” Black people inside the grocery store, including two security guards carrying pistols. Gendron wrote about one incident where one of the security guards confronted him after entering the store for the third time in one day.
“I’ve seen you go in and out… what are you doing?” he was asked. Gendron responded that he was “collecting consensus data.”
President Joe Biden has condemned the shooting, calling it an act of racist terrorism.
“We need to say as forcefully and clearly as we can that the ideology of white supremacy has no place in America. None. The silence is complicity,” Biden said in a statement.
In another shooting on Sunday, May 15, 68-year-old David Wenwi Chou, of Las Vegas, killed one person and injured five at a Taiwanese church in Laguna Woods, California.
Chou left notes in his car in Chinese stating that he doesn’t believe Taiwan should be independent from China.
Currently, China considers Taiwan to be a breakaway province that has increasingly grown aggressive about maintaining its sovereignty. On the island, emotions surrounding its relationship to China are so passionate that most open debates are completely avoided.
According to police, Chou’s hand-written note in Mandarin denotes his issues with the way he was treated while residing in Taiwan.
Another mass shooting being investigated as a hate crime.— Natasha Fatah (@NatashaFatah) May 17, 2022
David Wenwei Chou, 68, the suspect in the California church shooting is a Chinese national was allegedly motivated by hatred of Taiwanese people https://t.co/ETz6frkg8E
China claims Taiwan as part of its national territory. Taiwan has no seat in the United Nations and is only officially recognized by a small number of countries, but many states around the world maintain unofficial diplomatic relations with it.
Tensions have recently risen between China and Taiwan over Beijing's military drills in the East China Sea.
Barnes said that the gunman drove from Vegas to Laguna Woods and secured the doors of the church using chains, super glue and nails before he began shooting.
“We believe, based on what we’ve discovered so far, that he specifically targeted the Taiwanese community, and this is one representation of that Taiwanese community,” Barnes said.
At the scene, law enforcement officials found bags containing magazines of ammunition, as well as four Molotov cocktail-like bombs. Officials also recovered two firearms, both 9mm semiautomatic pistols purchased legally in Las Vegas.
Many of the 100 or so members of Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, which rents space at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, are elderly Taiwanese immigrants. Those injured in the shooting ranged in age from 66 to 92.
52-year-old Dr. John Cheng, was praised as a hero for taking swift action and tackling Chou, attempting to disarm him.
“He sacrificed himself so tha others could live,” Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said at a news conference.
Cheng, a family and sports medicine doctor in Aliso Viejo, left behind a partner and two children. He was not a church member, but his father recently died, and he was at the church accompanying his mother.
“Without the actions of Dr. Cheng, it is no doubt there would be numerous additional victims in this crime,” officials said.
I just found out the person killed in the Laguna Woods shooting yesterday was my primary care physician, Dr. John Cheng. Absolute hero. He attacked the gunman and helped save so many in that church. I just wanted his name to be known. He will be missed. pic.twitter.com/jAW8LvpmaB— Johnny Stanton (@johnnystantoniv) May 16, 2022
Chou has since been arrested and is being held at the Orange County Intake Release Center with a $1-million bail. He is charged with one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder.
In the wake of these two racially-motivated shootings, the Black and Taiwanese communities across the nation are reeling from the loss of life, the invasion of their inherent right to safety, and the persistence of racism, bias, and hatred.
Cathy Park Hong, author of Minor Feelings: An Asian-American Reckoning, reflected on the violence of the weekend, mentioning the attack on Korean women in Dallas, and the shootings in Buffalo and Laguna Woods, saying that to live in the country is “to be in constant mourning.”