You’d think that living through a pandemic for the last couple of years would be enough, but now it’s clear that we have a new health crisis. It’s an epidemic of hate. We are averaging ten mass shootings a week (that means two or more victims). The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at CSU/Santa Barbara says that in eight of the largest cities, hate crimes are up 54.5% this year alone.
That we are a nation awash in guns is a given. At four-hundred million, we have more guns than we have people. The FBI says White supremacists and violent domestic extremists are our greatest threats. They believe, as do I, that while these extremists have always been out there, they are now united and emboldened by their connection on social media. The days of secret meetings, hooded sheets, and cross-burnings have given way to a new mainstreaming of hate. They read each other’s posts, and connect in unprecedented ways, making them more dangerous than ever before. In this, you have the perfect storm. As we become inured to the violence, the incidents give us pause only for a moment before we return to our lives. We’ve let mass murder become blasé. To paraphrase the thoroughly evil dictator, Joseph Stalin, one death is a tragedy, thousands—millions, even—are just a statistic. Ironically, the frequency of hate crimes makes them easy to ignore.
Just this past weekend (which wasn’t particularly special in terms of gun violence), the shootings at a Buffalo grocery store, perpetrated by a heavily armed 18 year-old wrapped in body armor, targeted a grocery store in a Black community. He injured many and killed ten, including an out-gunned, retired Buffalo police officer working as a security guard. And the weekend wasn’t over. Sunday, an Orange County, California Presbyterian church was the scene of the next mass shooting. Both incidents followed a mass shooting in Milwaukee after an NBA game.
Gang violence appears to be the cause in Milwaukee. It isn’t West Side Story anymore. Switchblades are passé. Gangs have guns. Big, military-style guns. Gang violence is a blight, but according to the Justice Department, the biggest threats to our health and well-being are the racially motivated murders that are now common place.
I keep hearing people say racism is dead in America, that we are a society with a post-racial outlook. They say our history isn’t so bad, and that teaching the truth about it in schools is some kind of socialist plot. The Buffalo shooter had a one hundred eighty page White supremacy manifesto full of the normal bigoted nonsense. A look at his, and like-minded social media postings, shows that they’re fighting a race war you and I didn’t even know we were in.
You don’t have to look very far to find more evidence of what happens when guns are everywhere, and hate animates so many lives online. Add a spark, and you’ve got lives ruined by the deadly combination of hate and assault rifles.
Whether it’s the young white man in El Paso who targeted Mexicans in Walmart, the Asian spa killings in Atlanta, the Asian-targeted killings in a Dallas hair salon last week, or the synagogue shootings in Poway and Pittsburgh last year, hate is well-armed and rampant.
The United States is decidedly not post-racial. To say different is just whistling past the graveyard and solves nothing.
Breathing life into in these racially motivated hate crimes is something called “replacement theory.” It’s the fear ginned up online and on cable television that White Christian men are being replaced in a dastardly plot to empower Blacks, Jews, Asians, and Hispanics. The theory says organizations like Jewish Family Services that help resettle immigrants are actually complicit in a Democratic Party strategy to gain a majority by replacing White Christian men with likely liberal voters. Never mind that American birth rates are at an all-time low, or that the Democratic Party can’t grab its ears with both hands, it’s a bigoted story in search of substantiating facts.
It could be healing if those who fear the future because it doesn’t look like the past would come out of the shadows, stop hiding behind in the darkest corners of the Internet, and publicly speak their minds. Since sunshine is the best disinfectant, let’s invite them out into the light of day. Wouldn’t it be nice—and refreshing—to know where we actually stand, as opposed to where we pretend to be?
Until we can have a true dialogue, the big social media companies have to step up their ability to restrict hate speech, and we as a society have to stop making excuses and looking the other way.
Truth is the antidote to the epidemic of hate.
©2022 Jon Sinton
VOL. 112, NO. 20 - May 18, 2022