For years, I’ve heard faint rumblings of an impending race war. What a ludicrous idea, I thought. Black people certainly weren’t interested in a race war. We were not arming ourselves to the teeth or mumbling in paranoid fear about having to live and work with white people. Some would argue that one of the goals of the Civil Rights Movement was integration – the ability to live wherever we pleased, in whatever neighborhood, to have access to the same educational opportunities as others, to advance in our careers based upon our skills and abilities. We believed that we lived in a multiracial democracy. E pluribus unum. Out of Many, One.
What I didn’t realize was that, far from being a fringe idea, a race war is something that a fair number of white Americans would be happy tacitly supporting. Perhaps not a war in a conventional sense. Yet there are many different types of war. There is a war of ideas – such as the one being raged against books by and about people of color and the phony hysteria over Critical Race Theory. There is the war against public policy that supports the poor and other marginalized communities – with attacks against policies that help people, such as unemployment, or food stamps, or WIC, or Medicare, or Medicaid or Social Security, or asylum seekers. And of course, there is the ever-present war on women.
And then there is actual war. Armed conflict. But in the case of tragedy in Buffalo, New York, it was a one-sided war. In situations such as these, we call it terrorism. The act of using violence – often lethal violence – to achieve a political end. The political ideals the person in Buffalo was aiming for was the literal elimination of Black lives. The killer in Buffalo not only wanted to end people’s lives, he wanted the Black community in Buffalo to live in a state of terror, of fear. He not only wanted to destroy a sense of normalcy, but one of belonging. That this country has a place for you. That you belong here, too.
A young soldier doesn’t pick up arms and engage in warfare without being directed to by his superiors, his generals, his admirals. And just as modern warfare has evolved – cyberwarfare is just one example – so too has the decentralized, ideological warfare that we are now facing. The ideological right-wing machine puts forth the means, the agenda, identifies their perceived enemies and the alleged danger they possess. Like all effective propaganda it’s repetitive, on a constantly reply loop, and reinforced by all methods of mass communication – television, radio, social media, newspapers. Church. These generals may not know the day, the hour, or the individual, but they know that they have weaponized their hatred and vitriol so effectively that some will act. The acts will be different – some perhaps as seemingly benign as trolling someone on social media, some will lead to outright murder – but the affect will be the same. Terror, fear, and death in the Black community.
We are entering a period in America where there is a certain glee, a certain joyfulness, in being evil, cruel, and racist. The people who commit these acts are proud of what they do and show little to no remorse. We may consider such acts to be senseless, but to the perpetrators, it makes perfect sense. Evil has a happy home in America now. Far from being the bright light for all other countries of the world, America is rapidly descending into darkness. This is a war that knows no boundaries, does not distinguish between civilian and combatant, does not meet at a designated hour on a designated battlefield. Try as we might, it is a war we cannot avoid. We must recognize that we are in a war and look for new and strategic ways to survive and win.
Ironically, the right wing is fighting diligently to bring forth life of those who have not yet arrived into this world. Life. To live, to breathe, to exist. To share and to love. The ten individuals who lived in Buffalo, New York had a life. They breathed, existed, shared, and loved. Their lives had meaning, and they contributed greatly to this country by the mere fact that they were here at all. They were sacrificed on the alter of evil and hatred, and sadly, they won’t be the last. If all life is precious, then their lives were precious. They were worthy of saving, of marching for, of rallying for.
We cannot let what happened in Buffalo stand. We must hold our elective officials accountable for their lack of action on common-sense military weapons reform and must go after the generals and the admirals who have put this war into motion. Yes, we have free speech in this country, but you cannot yell Fire in a crowded theatre. Elections have consequences, everybody. We must get out and vote like our life depended upon it. Because, quite literally, it does.
-Dr. Erin H. Moore, Executive Director, The Center for Racial and Social Justice