Buffalo Victims Latest Target Of 'Replacement' Violence : Consider This from NPR A man accused of killing 10 people in Buffalo, New York was allegedly motivated by a racist doctrine known as 'replacement theory.' It's just a new name for an old set of racial hatreds, Kathleen Belew told NPR. Belew is an assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago and the author of Bring The War Home: The White Power Movement And Paramilitary America.

NPR's Quil Lawrence reports from Buffalo on the aftermath of the shooting, and NPR's Adrian Florido takes a closer look at the supermarket where it took place.

In participating regions, you'll also hear a local news segment to help you make sense of what's going on in your community.

Email us at considerthis@npr.org.

Buffalo Shooting Victims Are Likely Targets Of Racist 'Replacement' Violence

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1099118856/1099317549" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Darius Pridgen was not feeling much like a pastor on Sunday morning.

DARIUS PRIDGEN: I'm just a boy from Buffalo who is grieving with my brothers and sisters. It is difficult to lead during times like this.

CHANG: He's president of the Buffalo Common Council and senior pastor of the True Bethel Baptist Church. He told NPR he and his congregation members knew some of the 10 victims killed in Saturday's mass shooting at a supermarket - 10 lives in a Black community ended in an attack that was motivated by racism, according to city leaders.

PRIDGEN: It is very - a very tight-knit community in which - probably two degrees of separation. So it is a tragedy like we've never seen, I know in my lifetime, here in Buffalo.

CHANG: Even if the grief had Pridgen feeling a bit less like a preacher than usual, he had this word, a reaction to a document the shooter had allegedly written to explain his actions.

PRIDGEN: Anybody now who says there is not racism in America - I read how he looked at zip codes and looked for a place of a high concentration of, as he put it, Black people, and how he desired to shoot - in his words, to shoot Black people.

CHANG: What apparently motivated the accused gunman to do that is an idea that he allegedly wrote about in that document that we mentioned he shared online, an idea that you can hear more and more on some conservative media outlets.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

TUCKER CARLSON: You've got to ask yourself as you watch the historic tragedy that is Joe Biden's immigration policy, what's the point of this? Nothing about it is an accident, obviously...

CHANG: That's Tucker Carlson on his Fox News show nearly eight months ago. He expounded on a hateful ideology known as replacement theory.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

CARLSON: To change the racial mix of the country - that's the reason - to reduce the political power of people whose ancestors lived here and dramatically increased the proportion of Americans newly arrived from the Third World.

CHANG: This is a baseless claim, a conspiracy theory rooted in many years of racism and white supremacist ideology. But increasingly, this idea appears not just in fringe corners of the internet, but on primetime Fox News, where leading political figures echo it back to their followers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

J D VANCE: But also Democrat politicians who have decided that they can't win reelection in 2022 unless they bring in a large number of new voters to replace the voters that are already here. That's what this is about.

CHANG: That's J.D. Vance. He's a Trump-endorsed Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Ohio who just won his party primary this month. During his primary campaign, he made appearances like this one on Tucker Carlson's show back in March.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

VANCE: We have an invasion in this country because very powerful people get richer and more powerful because of it. It's not bad policy. It's evil. And we need to call it that.

KATHLEEN BELEW: The great replacement theory is the newest sort of name for a very old set of ideas.

CHANG: Kathleen Belew is a professor of history at the University of Chicago who's written a book about the white supremacist movement in America. She told NPR, you can trace recent episodes of racial violence to replacement ideology. That includes shootings in Charleston, Pittsburgh and El Paso, this weekend's shooting in Buffalo, and, of course, don't forget...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: You will not replace us.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: You will not replace us.

CHANG: ...The violent white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., nearly five years ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: You will not replace us.

BELEW: Activists who follow this doctrine believe that the white race is under attack. And what we see is that this doctrine is quite flexible, and it's really a new name for an old set of racial hatreds.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: You will not replace us. You will not replace us. You will not replace us.

CHANG: CONSIDER THIS - an old racist ideology has a modern name, and it appears to be increasingly motivating white racial violence. We're learning more and more about the victims in Buffalo and the supermarket where they shopped. From NPR, I'm Ailsa Chang. It's Monday, May 16.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: It's CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. Tucker Carlson and Fox News were not cited anywhere in a document allegedly authored by the Buffalo shooter, an 18-year-old white man who claimed he was radicalized on the internet. The internet, including fringe websites, is where replacement theory first found currency among the alt-right. But their views are increasingly mainstream. A new poll from the AP and the National Opinion Research Center found 1 in 3 American adults believe immigrants are being brought to the U.S. by a group of people for political gain.

TIM BROWN: The only one we can lean on is God, because in a few days, all these cameras will leave, and it'll just be us.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yes. Talk about it. Talk about it.

CHANG: Outside the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, where 13 people were shot, 10 of them fatally, Pastor Tim Brown spoke at a crowded interfaith vigil on Sunday.

BROWN: Nobody will remember that 10 people lost their lives except for those families that are still here. This community has been devastated by economic depression.

CHANG: Brown was talking about the neighborhood on the east side of Main Street, where 85% of Black people in Buffalo live. He also spoke about the alleged shooter.

BROWN: And now on a terrorist attack on our community - and what we need now is unity. The indoctrination of a boy to kill people that don't look like him is only because somebody is having a conversation that divides our people as a race and as humanity. And we have got to stop. And this is not isolated to our community. This has been happening for over 400 years.

CHANG: And we're learning more about the members of that community who were killed on Saturday - among them, Heyward Patterson, age 67, a church deacon who used to drive people to and from the store; Aaron Salter, age 55. He was the store's security guard and a retired police officer. He attempted to stop the shooter on Saturday. And Katherine Massey, age 72 - she wrote frequently to local news outlets commenting on a variety of issues and just last year had a letter published in the Buffalo News calling for more federal legislation to curb gun violence in the city. NPR's Quil Lawrence has been covering the aftermath of the shooting from Buffalo, and he spoke to Mary Louise Kelly on Monday afternoon.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: All right. Well, let's start with the latest in the investigation. Where does it stand?

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: Yeah. Authorities here are just finishing up a press briefing where they said, essentially, not very much new information - one, that the suspect did visit Buffalo back in March as part of what seems to be a very lengthy preparation for the alleged attack. He's still in custody. He's segregated from the general population on suicide watch.

KELLY: Civil rights attorney Ben Crump was in Buffalo today with one of the families that lost their matriarch, 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield. I know you were there. Tell us about it.

LAWRENCE: Many members of her family spoke at a press conference. They said it was not easy for them. They're a private family. Her granddaughter, Kamilah, said that her grandmother would never judge you.

KAMILAH: Such a good listener. And she would choose her words wisely before she responded and speak love into any situation that you had going on. My baby is 17 months old, and she was building such a beautiful relationship with her. She was our downstairs neighbor. And every time we came or went, she would knock on her door for a hug or a kiss. (Crying) And I just try to walk so fast in and out the house now so that she doesn't try to stop. And she will be missed. We love you, grandmommy.

KELLY: So hard to listen to their pain. And, Quil, I mentioned in the intro she visited her husband every day in his nursing home - every day for eight years. I read she'd just left him when she went to the grocery store and was killed?

LAWRENCE: Yes. They'd been married for 68 years. The family said that she went even days that she wasn't well, didn't feel like going herself, she would go and see him. And like you said, they're still just trying to figure what they're going to say to their father about the fact that his wife of 68 years is gone and how she died. Ruth Whitfield's son, Raymond, said that the family is sad, but also angry.

RAYMOND WHITFIELD: But this time, there's no wiping away these tears. There's no walking on with life. So I say to you, what are you willing to do so that the next time it's not you standing here before your broken-hearted family?

KELLY: One of the many people that our colleague, Quil Lawrence, is hearing from and talking to there in Buffalo as we follow the aftermath of the shooting. Quil Lawrence, thank you.

LAWRENCE: Thanks, Mary Louise.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: Now the site of the shooting in Buffalo, the Tops Friendly Market on the city's east side - it wasn't just any grocery store. It was something Black residents had organized for years to get built. Now it's closed while investigators process the crime scene. NPR's Adrian Florido reports.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Hours after Saturday's shooting, a reporter asked New York Governor Kathy Hochul where people who shopped at the Tops were going to get their groceries now.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KATHY HOCHUL: There's families that are still finding out that their loved one is not coming home to dinner tonight. People can get their groceries tomorrow.

FLORIDO: People who know the city's east side said it seemed the governor didn't realize the store's temporary closure was more than a minor inconvenience.

TRICE SMITH: We don't have much over here. You know, we don't have markets on every corner, you know what I'm saying? We have people that don't have cars.

FLORIDO: Trice Smith and her mother are longtime Tops customers. Her mom shops there every Saturday.

SMITH: Every Saturday.

FLORIDO: So when she learned of the shooting, Smith's first concern was, was her mom OK? Then it was figuring out how to rework her schedule to get her mother food until the store reopens.

SMITH: It's not going to be easy. We're worrying about food, and we're worrying about if we're safe getting the food.

FLORIDO: The Tops market on Jefferson Avenue is in the heart of Buffalo's Black East Side. And it's the only grocery store people who live here can walk to.

DELLA MILLER: I just said, oh my God. That's the only Tops we have in the community.

FLORIDO: Della Miller is a food activist who helped convince Tops executives to build the store almost 20 years ago. Before then, she used to set up a produce stand nearby.

MILLER: Cases of greens and tomatoes and peppers and we would actually sell them on the street. That was how desperate we were to get fresh produce.

FLORIDO: When the Tops opened in 2003, people were thrilled.

MILLER: You know, we have a Tops. We have a Tops. They were so happy - you know what I mean? - because that was extra dollars in their pocket not having to pay for transportation or getting on the bus.

FLORIDO: The store became an important hub, a place to meet for a fried fish dinner or to pick up a prescription. There's a bank inside. The weekend's racist attack did not only cut short 10 lives, it forced the community to answer a question that most richer, whiter neighborhoods would never face after a similar attack - now, how do we eat?

SAMINA RAJA: When there aren't food resources, how do people adapt? And what are the social networks and relationships that help them survive in times of crises?

FLORIDO: Samina Raja is a Buffalo urban planner, food researcher and activist. In the last two days, it's those social networks, she said, that have been getting people through. People have mobilized.

RAJA: We have a farmer on the East Side who's a Black farmer, trying to figure out when she's going to do deliveries. Another person is trying to figure out where there will be cold storage. They have not slept.

FLORIDO: Tops is shuttling customers without cars to other stores. Ride-hailing companies are helping, too. So are food banks. No community should have to scramble to find food like this, Raja says. But this, too, is what racism looks like.

RAJA: The community recognizes that there isn't going to be a response, and that's been the case for too long. They're not going to sit around and figure out who's going to come and bring food to them.

FLORIDO: Tops executives have promised the store on Jefferson Avenue will reopen. Jaylon Jones, who was standing next to the crime scene tape around the parking lot, said he's glad about that.

JAYLON JONES: If you're Black and you grew up around this neighborhood, you know what this Tops means to you.

FLORIDO: But shopping there, he said, won't ever be the same.

JONES: He took that from us. He took that from us.

FLORIDO: It'll be a place to buy food because there is no other place - because you have to, not because you want to.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: That story from NPR's Adrian Florido. Earlier, you also heard reporting from NPR's Ayesha Rascoe and the Weekend Edition team.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CHANG: It's CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. I'm Ailsa Chang.

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.