today in black history

May 29, 2024

Tom Bradley defeats incumbent Mayor Sam Yorty and becomes the first Black mayor of Los Angeles on this date in 1973.

When all you have is Hate

POSTED: May 16, 2022, 12:30 pm

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As we are at that mourning place again in the wake of 18-year-old White supremacist Payton S. Gendron’s racially motivated mass killing of Black people in Buffalo, New York, we must not miss the point. Yes, it was an individual act, but this young killer’s inspiration was the myth of America. Since this nation’s founding, a tale has been spun of White supremacy and infallibility, and innocence and the inhumanity of Black and brown-skinned people. This latest attack was no accident. It was cultivated in the mind of Payton Gendron for years by an education system that perpetuates a false narrative of the United States and popular culture that feeds White supremacy.

You do not have to look far to find the source material for Gendron’s 180-page racist Manifesto. Just read textbooks used in our public schools or listen to the ignorance spewed on the Fox News Channel, One America News, NewsMax or in the halls of Congress by a rabidly racist and Trump dominated Republican Party. Gendron joins Dylan Roof and Kyle Rittenhouse as the latest young, White male killers who got their marching orders and carried them out with murderous intent. Like his counterparts, his hatred and racist intent is soft-pedaled as a ‘mental health’ issue or an aberration – “he comes from a fine family.” No, this is in the DNA of many White males, and White female “Karens,” who see it as their divine mission to control or eliminate Black people.

Let us not act as if we are surprised that Black people were murdered in this way. This is part of the American story that the nation refuses to acknowledge is ‘normal.’ White people have killed Black people with impunity since enslaved Africans reached the shores of the United States. The lynching of Black people and White mob violence against Black people was a such a common practice in the United States that it was normalized, and generations of White children learned it was their right to kill Black people. Why bring a child to a lynching to witness a person being hung and burned alive if you are not trying to send the message that property has no rights, no soul and should be tortured if not obedient to the will of White people? Payton Gendron is the latest manifestation of that lesson.

I am a Christian and I know that there are no prayers that can comfort the families of the victims of this massacre at the Tops Grocery Store in Buffalo. My thoughts and prayers mean little to families who must now bury their dead and sit in the loneliness of mourning, knowing that their loved ones will never walk through the door again. Such words have become a hollow expression in a nation that repeatedly fails Black people. When you hear people feign outrage over abortion and claim they are pro-life, apparently that empathy does not extend to Black people victimized by racially motivated hate. If it did, we would have real gun control in America and the transformation of public education to better ground children in the truth.

“Let us not act as if we are surprised that Black people were murdered in this way. This is part of the American story that the nation refuses to acknowledge is ‘normal.’ White people have killed Black people with impunity since enslaved Africans reached the shores of the United States.”

These murders took place in Buffalo, but we need to investigate what was Gendron learning in his hometown of Conklin, 200 miles away. That was the sentiment expressed by a former head of the FBI’s Buffalo field office in an interview for a Washington Post article on the mass killings. Peter Ahearn said, “The answers to the most important questions aren’t in Buffalo, they’re 200 miles away in Conklin. The motivation is hate, but what drove him to this? What was his upbringing like, to be that horrible of an individual, to do this and kill 10 innocent people? They need to understand that. Right now this is a wide open wound. Those answers will help with understanding, but it will take time.”

Racial hatred is an acquired taste in America, but it is fed daily by the misrepresentations in textbooks, the ignorant commentary of right-wing, on-air talking heads, and the ambition of politicians whose only interest is in winning, no matter the human cost. The war on truth is underway in school districts and communities across the country as the teaching of a truthful history (Critical Race History) and the banning of textbooks by Black and brown authors, is creating the conditions for the next Payton Gendron. This fight must be waged in your backyard, in your local community. It is what we do in our own community that matters most. Show up at your local School Board meeting and demand the teaching of Black history and the inclusion of the works of consciously Black authors in school libraries. Make certain that you are a beacon of truth for children, ALL children.

One way to minimize the risk of a Payton Gendron or Dylan Roof in the future is to prevent their creation, and to protect us in the present self-defense must become a mantra in the Black community.

Walter Fields is the Executive Editor of

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