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Library Research Notes #34
Before I begin, I would like to honour the 10 people who lost their lives on 14 May 2022 in the Buffalo terrorist attack. They were simply living their lives, buying groceries, and those lives were taken for no good reason. We mourn their loss but also vow to continue combating the hatred that fuels white supremacist movements in North America and abroad.
Good news first
One of the three survivors from Saturday’s terrorist attack, Zaire Goodman, and his mom Zeneta, have started a book drive to collect books to distribute to kids in Buffalo through community centers, schools, and local organizations: Zeneta and Zaire's Book Wishlist (and yes, I know it is an Amazon link. I do not support Bezos, but this is a good cause and unfortunately Amazon has the best tool to send gifts without divulging the recipient address)
Description from the wishlist page:
“When a white supremacist opened fire at a Buffalo grocery store on Saturday, May 14th, Zeneta Everhart's son Zaire was the first person shot. Zaire was helping an elderly woman with her cart, when he was shot in the neck. By a miracle, he survived. 10 others were targeted and killed simply because of the color of their skin. When asked how our country can do better, Zeneta repeated one thing: educating our children. From a young age, she says kids need to learn about race and racism and black history, so that we can foster a new generation of inclusive and compassionate leaders. By purchasing a book from this list, you're investing in that vision. Zeneta and Zaire will distribute these books to community centers, schools, and local organizations to start these conversations at a grassroots level here in Buffalo, N.Y.”
Let’s support a good cause for someone who survived a horrific tragedy and send ripple effects out into the future for the kids that get to read and absorb the important messages in these books.
This past Saturday was a dark day for Buffalo, NY, specifically, the community on the east side, and for Black Americans more generally. These attacks continue happening again and again and again. We talk about it, we send ‘thoughts and prayers’, maybe we donate to a cause or march in a protest, but then we move on. Moving on is not the answer, unless it means moving, on the ground, to better the communities that we live, work, and play in and those adjacent. Conservatives, after all, continue to play the long game and we continue to be faced with a country that is deteriorating all for the good of the powerful, white, elites.
Police brutalize and murder people of color. White supremacists radicalize new members online. Evangelicals work to remove bodily autonomy rights from more than half of the US population. Gun lobbyists continue pushing for weapons to have more rights than humans. Religious populations outside of Christianity are stripped of rights and made to feel terror. LGBTQIA+ people are made to feel unwelcome, unwanted, and terrified to exist. Educators and librarians are restricted from doing their jobs based on a white supremacist view of history. National news anchors tout such disgusting theories as ‘replacement’ on the nightly broadcasts and GOP members vote ‘no’ on laws that could actually support the rights, and freedoms, and improve the lives of their constituents.
These things are all connected. They all work in tandem to round out the will of a minority of people who are running the show but are also scared out of their wits that they will lose that control. These straight, white, cis, rich, dudes (and the women that support them - even though they will also lose in the end) never rest in their pursuit of power. They continue to reach for more and cry about losing what they have. But as I have said in the past - RIGHTS ARE NOT PIZZA - there is enough for everyone and then some.
This past week, after boosting a post on Instagram, from a Buffalo organization, asking President Biden to pass a bill for reparations, I got one of the above dudes in my comment thread. He went on a rant about how ‘you don’t deserve reparations and neither does the person you reposted’ and ‘i’m not giving you any of my money’.
Um, sir, that isn’t how reparations work. But this is the crux. Social media is a cesspool. It creates disinformation so quickly, that it seems like users are in a race to the bottom. Online forums have always been problematic. Anytime there is anonymity online, it eventually ends up breeding vitriol.
The terrorist who murdered the 10 people above, on the 14th, was radicalized online through sites that allow for the breeding of white supremacist activity. The sites bounce around and VPNs are used to access them, making them almost impossible to take down. But is it possible to take down actual physical networks of white supremacists?
Can the law fix this?
On the 22 May 2022 broadcast of the #SistersInLaw podcast, Mishigas, the lawyers discussed what could potentially be done to combat future mass shootings by white supremacist shooters. In discussing the motive of the murderer, Kimberly Atkins Stohr noted that
“he was radicalized, apparently, alledgedly, using various social media platforms. I’m not sure it took the social media platforms, because obviously the great replacement theory has existed in our history from the beginning, long before there was social media. So maybe that was just the means that he got there, but there has been this idea about that [great replacement theory] that has permeated our society from the beginning.”
She went on to mention a recent poll that showed 1 in 3 Americans believe in this theory. The poll mentioned was done by AP-NORC and here are the specific findings referenced,
“Still, roughly one in three (32%) adults agree that a group of people is trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains. A similar share (29%) also express concern that an increase in immigration is leading to native-born Americans losing economic, political, and cultural influence. These two key measures tap into the core arguments of Replacement Theory, a decades old idea, which posits that there is a group of powerful people in this country who are trying to permanently alter the culture and voting strength of native-born Americans by bringing in large groups of immigrants – the study indicates about one in five (17%) adults agree with both of these central tenets.”
The 1 in 3 result is bad enough, but the 17%, or one in five respondents polled who believe in both tenets is the more frightening statistic. These are the people who are ripe for radicalization. They are the people that will also buy into theories such as QAnon. They repost conspiracy theories on social media without a second thought and they are continuing to drive domestic terrorist acts offline. So, as I have said in the past, we need to be vigilant online. We need to rooting out friends and family members who post disinformation and conspiracy theories. We cannot look at these things as mundane or silly. We need to see them as fodder for future terrorist attacks and report them to the platform.
White people, let me repeat that. IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE THAT IS SPEWING WHITE SUPREMACIST VIEWS OR DISINFORMATION ROOTED CONSPIRACY THEORIES ONLINE OR IN PERSON PLEASE CALL THEM OUT AND REPORT THEM.
The conversation on #SistersInLaw continued with Barb McQuade who made a point about the concept of “left of boom”, sharing that…
“it is a concept that is used within the FBI. The concept is you want to stop the terrorist somewhere on the timelime before the moment of attack. So, if boom, the bombing, the shooting, whatever it is is the moment on a timeline, any spot left of that on the timeline predates the moment of the attack. That’s what you really want to do.”
This is a concept that is used all the time in cases of international terrorism, but that is a lot harder to do with domestic terror, as McQuade continues,
“because there is not a federal domestic terrorism statute, the FBI does not have a predication, which is a resonable belief that a federal offense has been commited, to open an investigation and kind of just troll around on social media the way it does for international terrorist cases.”
Because of the surveillance programs by the FBI, after McCarthyism, such as CoIntelPro, that targeted mainly progressive groups of the late 50s through early 70s (the KKK and National States Rights Party were also surveilled, to a smaller extent) the government instituted several protection measures, as McQuade also notes,
“one of which is the DIOG (Domestic Investigations Operations Guide) for the FBI… It’s a thick manual… it describes the necessary predication because it puts a lot of obstacles in place to protect first amendment protected activity. Free speech, free assembly, the kinds of things that might be unpopular with a particular administration.”
It basically stops any one administration from going after or tracking the activities of those on the opposite side politically. It protects everyone and so it puts up a wall, legally, to really infiltrate and surveil any organization on the left or the right. Meanwhile, white supremacists continue to radicalize and commit mass destruction.
Is this a structural problem?
I am tired of people using segregation and income levels and historical racism as the ONLY reasons that this massacre occurred. Yes - those are all problems that need solutions. They are problems that were created by racist policies, by white people, in order to control communities of color and maintain authority. They are problems that have persisted in Buffalo, and many other communities of color in the United States, for decades upon decades. There are grassroots organizations, working on the ground in Buffalo and other cities, to bring about change and they could use your support via donations and/or time. These organizations deserve to be better funded through budgetary expenditures by the City of Buffalo. If Mayor Brown really wanted to make change in the city, he would put forth funding for these grassroots organizations taht are already doing the work and have been for years. With time, money, first-hand knowledge of each city’s conditions and needs, and the effort grassroots organizations can solve these structural issues.
But those efforts are for naught if white people don’t take the additional step of being anti-racist. White people cannot just say ‘that is awful and I’m sad, but I’m a good person’ or ‘he wasn’t a “real” christian’ or ‘not all white people’. If one of us massacres a group of people, it is on all of us to resolve the underlying issues that caused him (and it is almost always him) to do it. We need to point to the people in our lives who we know ARE those people. People who have been touting fake theories about people of color being dangerous while ignoring the true dangers that linger in the basements and bedrooms and dinner tables of our own homes.
The white kids who are being radicalized into this life of hatred. The people who are intentionally or unintentionally sharing harmful messages online. The friend who makes a racist joke across the table on a night out. The server who makes a snide remark about a customer of color. The teammate who confides a racist belief in the privacy of the locker room or on the field during the game. The roommate who uses racist language while playing an online game, but never says anything in public.
These are all instances, among many many more, of racism and as white people we are the only ones who can fix these problems. Be anti-racist. It is truly the only path forward and really the only way to be. If you do have something you see in your community that is harmful and want to report it, here are a few places that track this kind of activity.
Striving toward Dr. King’s Beloved Community
On the Thursday (19 May 2022) broadcast of the 1A podcast, Jenn White spoke to Reverand George F. Nicholas of Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church in Buffalo, who when asked about his “frustration with the politicians who have visited Buffalo in the past few days to offer their condolences” offered this wonderful response, which is what I will leave this post here for us all to ponder.
“A root of my frustration is the dehumanization of Black people in this republic. Another root of my frustration is, as a Christian Pastor, to know that, you know, not all of colleagues share this same intensity about how immoral Black people’s experience, in terms of living in this republic has been, and how the church has been complicit in many ways… my frustration with politicians is this… we are grateful… however there has to be a sense of urgency to prioritize the conditions of Black people in America.”
Please listen to the full 38 minute broadcast here: 1A podcast
A Fringe Conspiracy Theory, Fostered Online, Is Refashioned by the G.O.P. (nytimes.com)
The 'great replacement' conspiracy theory isn't fringe anymore, it's mainstream (npr.org)
PUSHs statement of commitment and resource, In service to our beloved community (pushbuffalo.org)
The beloved community and the heresy of white replacement (religionnews.com)
Voices of Faith: Love requires prayers and action not just thoughts and prayers (record-courier.com)
A few resources for on the ground action and giving in Buffalo
Elsewhere this week…
How did trans people become a GOP target? Experts say it’s all about keeping evangelicals voting (19thnews.org)
How the Biden administration let right-wing attacks derail its disinformation efforts (washingtonpost.com)
A new rabbit hole for me to go down and write about in the future: Paleoconservatism (wikipedia.org)
Bombshell 400-page report finds Southern Baptist leaders routinely silenced sexual abuse survivors (houstonchronicle.com) - [Note: The Southern Baptist Convention is the part of the faith that split off, in 1845, because they didn’t agree with the abolition of slavery. It remains a predominantly white evangelical faith that has strong and lasting ties to the GOP]
Abuse of Faith - a chronicle investigation (houstonchronicle.com) - the Houston Chronicle did an excellent job investigating the SBC and the archive lives here.
We all need to protect our well being in these difficult times. To do that, you might want to check out the Trigger Warning Database before picking up that next tome and be aware before reading. (triggerwarningdatabase.com)