By all accounts, May 14, 2022 started as a typical Saturday afternoon at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo’s Masten Park neighborhood, which is home to Black, Asian and Latinx families. While so many families across the country were likely following similar Saturday routines, parents were arriving at this supermarket with plans to treat their little ones to ice cream, as elders filled their carts with provisions for the week ahead.
Meanwhile, an eighteen-year-old, wearing a bulletproof vest and armed with a modified semiautomatic rifle and radicalized theories about race and power, chose this community more than 200 miles from his home – a community which has been traumatized through embedded patterns of structural racism for generations – as the target for his anxieties and fears. He left ten people dead. We honor these souls:
• Aaron Salter, 55
• Ruth Whitfield, 86
• Pearl Young, 77
• Katherine Massey, 72
• Deacon Heyward Patterson, 67
• Celestine Chaney, 65
• Roberta A. Drury, 32
• Margus D. Morrison, 52
• Andre Mackneil, 53
• Geraldine Talley, 62
Unfortunately, racial violence is not new to East Buffalo, a community that has been battered for decades by marginalization and disinvestment. Against this backdrop, we were so honored to partner with Buffalo in 2017 as one of the first places to implement our Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation framework. This community’s long-standing work, facilitated by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, has brought people together to envision and begin creating a racially equitable future and has deeply informed our own approaches and practices. Institutions within nearly every system that touches the lives of children and families in Buffalo are influenced by the relationship-building, trust-building and racial healing work necessary to cultivate more equitable conditions.
At the same time, we cannot dismiss the perpetual influence of the centuries-old myth of a hierarchy of human value, a perception of inferiority or superiority based on race. This myth has always played on the minds and spirits of White people, allowing too many to believe they are deserving of more power, privilege and status and fueling heightened anxieties during times of change or uncertainty.
The terrifying display of violence perpetrated this weekend points to the dire need for truth, racial healing and transformation work in every town and city, every classroom – and around every dinner table – to disrupt and counteract this profoundly dangerous and destructive myth. We must continue to work towards a new understanding of our common humanity and a shared vision for collective prosperity that is characterized by cross-racial relationships built on trust and mutual respect.