Maybe it’s just too difficult for them.
Too difficult for MAGA-nation to simply condemn white supremacy and the Great Replacement Theory that has animated multiple terrorist attacks, including the latest in Buffalo, and leave it at that.
Too difficult to just say that these things are unacceptable and that anyone who adheres to them is a horrible person who isn’t wanted in any right-leaning political coalition.
Too difficult to just say, as Republicans: We denounce you and don’t even want your votes.
And then, rather than follow the denunciation with a comma or the word “but,” just end the sentence with a period and be done.
But they can’t — or rather, won’t.
And why not?
For the same reason Donald Trump refused to unequivocally condemn the white supremacists in Charlottesville in 2017, one of whom attempted to murder multiple people with his car, ultimately killing Heather Heyer.
Because, as Trump told former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan:
These people love me. These are my people. I can’t backstab the people who support me.
And so they remain silent or deny that the Buffalo massacre has anything to do with them or mainstream conservative discourse.
Worst of all, they play the “whataboutism” game, pointing to violence by people of color and suggesting that if the right is to blame for white violence, then the left must be responsible for violence by Black and brown folks.
But what about Chicago? What about that Asian guy in California? Foolishness and false equivalency
There are several examples of whataboutism currently being deployed by the right in the wake of the Buffalo attack.
First, as usual, they mention criminal violence committed by Black folks in places like Chicago. Since far more Black people are killed by other Black people than by white racists, they insist that focusing on the actions of a deranged gunman like Payton Gendron is a distraction.
Well, over the past 21 years, there have been hundreds of thousands of Americans killed by other Americans and only 3,000 killed by al-Qaeda, all on one day. So does that mean the latter weren’t worthy of concern or that it isn’t important to challenge the extremist ideology that prompted them?
Not to mention, as for street crime and criminal violence, no one in Congress or the left media promotes a political ideology that could encourage drive-by shootings.
Second, as Marjorie Taylor Greene recently ranted (from a moving car into a dashcam, no less), an Asian guy shot up a church in Orange County the day after the Buffalo massacre.
Yes, but the victims were also Asian, so it wasn’t a race-based incident.
And although the shooting does seem to have been motivated by a political hatred of Taiwanese independence, there’s no one in Congress or left-wing mass media pushing a pro-Chinese propaganda line about that subject.
So it was politically-motivated violence. But it has no relationship to any liberal, left, or Democratic Party line about Taiwan.
As for the shooter being a person of color, so what? The fact that people of all races do awful things was never in dispute.
The question is: does this country have a specific problem with far-right violence, much of it racist in nature? And there, the answer is a resounding yes, according to any possible metric you choose: the number of incidents, the number of fatalities, or the degree of threat moving forward.
To wit, Donald Trump re-posting an endorsement of civil war this week on his Truth Social platform.
Yeah, so Barack Obama never did that.
What about Waukesha? What about the NYC subway shooter? Again, no…
The two most prominent whataboutisms since Buffalo involve Darrell Brooks, the Black guy who rammed his SUV through a Christmas parade in Waukesha last year, killing six, and Frank James, the Black guy who recently opened fire in a New York City subway, injuring thirteen.
But these cases aren’t remotely similar to Payton Gendron’s terrorist attack in Buffalo.
With Gendron, we have a killer who explicitly says why he did what he did. His writings suggest a commitment to white supremacy, and he insists that the most important takeaway from his actions is the idea that “white birthrates must change.”
So too, his long-term planning of the attack, staking out the store in a Black neighborhood, amassing weapons for the slaughter, penning the manifesto over several months, and deliberately not shooting a white man he encountered (even apologizing for scaring him), all suggest a clear motive.
Neither Frank James nor Darrell Brooks seems to have been motivated by a worldview anywhere near as definitive.
James, for instance, posted dozens of YouTube videos (many of which I painfully sat through after his arrest), in which he ranted against everyone: Blacks, whites, police, the city’s Black and Democratic Mayor, pretty much every social service agency in New York, the Social Security Administration, gays, immigrants, and homeless people, just to name a few.
He reserved many of his harshest comments for Black women, and when he opened fire on the subway, he didn’t target any particular group.
He could have gone to a wine bar in SoHo or Park Slope if he wanted to kill white people. He didn’t.
As for Brooks, he did have some anti-white Facebook posts, including one from 17 months before his attack encouraging the punching of white people. He also posted anti-police content and one post parroting the Black Hebrew Israelites, to the effect that Black folks are the real Jews of Scripture and that those who “claim” to be Jews are imposters.
But given the time lapse between the post calling for violence against white people and his actions, it’s hard to see how the two are related. This is probably why no one involved in the investigation has suggested his actions stemmed from racial animus.
Additionally, despite his anti-cop rhetoric (online and in his amateur rap videos), he never targeted police.
As for the Black Hebrew Israelite nonsense, although the group is known for its bigotry, there is no logical connection between the claim that Blacks are the original Jews, and the attack on the Christmas parade.
I mean, attacking a Christmas parade in Waukesha because you’re angry at Jews for pretending to be the Hebrews of antiquity isn’t exactly precision targeting.
Oh, and one more thing.
No liberal or leftist in Congress or the mainstream media is pushing the theories of the Black Hebrew Israelites the way right-wing persons in both are pushing the Great Replacement Theory.
So there’s that.
But what about left-wing rhetoric about racism and cops? Still no…
Finally, the right says that liberal and left rhetoric about systemic racism and police misconduct contributes to anti-cop violence and widespread property destruction, as happened in several places during the summer of 2020.
But black people don’t need to be told about police misconduct or racism by some left-leaning commentator or lawmaker. They already know because they’ve experienced these things.
No Black person is being radicalized by Roland Martin, The 1619 Project, or a Cornel West video.
Because nothing any of those might say about racism is news to them.
If Black people lash out about racism, it’s because they’ve experienced it.
It doesn’t make violence in the name of anti-racism OK, but it means such violence isn’t the result of left narratives so much as lived experience.
Payton Gendron was not experiencing replacement.
In each of these cases of white terrorism, we have guys who weren’t experiencing the thing they ranted about but knew it must be happening because they heard right-wing voices telling them as much.
And for some of those voices — like the ones on 4Chan — the only replacement they’ve experienced is when mom switched out their Pepperoni Hot Pockets for Ham and Cheese or sneakily substituted Sun Chips for the Cool Ranch Doritos they prefer.
Bottom line: if you have to learn about something from someone else to know it’s happening to you, it’s probably not happening to you.
Second, the whole point of left anti-racist narratives is that they cast the problem as systemic. And there is something inherently different about a theory that aims at a system or institutional structure compared to one that points to a cabal of bad individuals conspiring to harm others.
Systemic critiques call for systemic solutions: policy changes, resource allocation, and a shifting of practices in various institutional settings.
Systemic critiques don’t place blame at the feet of individuals, such that targeting those individuals would make any sense.
Systemic critiques encourage voting, protests, or the establishment of alternative institutions, not violence against people.
Political violence is overwhelmingly the product of a right-wing authoritarian mindset, which glorifies violence as a means to an end and an end in itself.
White racist terrorists are the foot soldiers and brown shirts of the Republican Party.
They have no parallel on the left. None. At. All.
Previously Published on Medium