When I lived in Anderson, Indiana many moons ago, I believe it was 1990, I had a wonderful adventure traveling to Buffalo,
NY in January to work at the International Church of God Youth Convention. I absolutely loved the city. It seemed to me like a large borough blanketed in snow. At that time I was Buffalo Bound and felt a bond, a kinship with the community. I also loved traveling into Canada while taking in the breath taking Niagara Falls. I'm not sure I could do that today without a passport. Today I feel an even greater bond with Buffalo, NY. It is not one that I would ever wish upon this beautiful city and its people. It seems surreal to me that one cannot get over the border without a passport; and yet, a young man claiming to be a White Nationalist can walk into a Tops Grocery Store and kill 10 people without blinking an eye. Who could have stopped this crime from happening? (Topic for another blog) How could the 18 year old hate-filled teenager could purchase such weapons?
“Where were the red flags for him to be able to purchase these guns legally?” Erie County, New York, Sheriff John Garcia said. “But in a case like this the gun dealer was able to sell these weapons to this individual because there was no red flags that came up.” Payton Gendron, in the lengthy document posted online, wrote that he bought the AR-15 style gun from a gun store in New York. Gendron had been taken to an emergency room for a mental health evaluation after an incident in high school where he mentioned “murder-suicide,” but was released without being involuntarily committed, according to law enforcement officials. Involuntary commitment could have, if the system worked as designed, resulted in Gendron’s name being added to a list of people prohibited from purchasing guns. (https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/17/us/buffalo-mass-shooting-guns-suspect/index.html)
As the community of Buffalo grieves these deep, heavy losses for 10 lost and 3 critically wounded in their community, we need to pray and grieve right along with them. It is appalling to think that there is such a group of White Nationalists in our country who believe in this Replacement Theory that Gendron, the perpetrator of the Buffalo murders, adhered to online. Hatred seems to hide out in dark places, those spaces that are in the margins of our country and on the internet. It is appalling to think that this darkness can invade into our world of love and care without our knowledge until BOOM! It happens and many lives are taken. I am reminded of the 1995 Alfred P Murrah Federal Building Bombing in OKC and the White Nationalists, Timothy McVey and Terry Nichols who perpetrated this crime where 169 innocent victims died simply because they worked in a federal building. One of my dearest friends Jill Diane Randolph, a beautiful 27 year old successful career woman lost her life there. Do I feel a bond with the families in Buffalo. Yes, I do! They were innocent victims simply because of the color of their skin. One hundred fifty seven years following the end of the Civil War and we are still dealing with such violent racism! It is unbelievable to me!
Not only do I feel a unique bond with Buffalo victim's families and friends, but I will call out the horrible actions of Mr. Gendron as evil and sinful and say that these senseless crimes must end! As I listened to a local bishop challenge his friends to do the same, he shouted: "Stand up against White Nationalism and hate crimes!" We are often so wishy-washy. We express sorrow, but are we willing to confront the crime and work to do something to stop it in the future? This is exactly what Laura Haviland, an abolitionist in the 19th century did. Mrs. Haviland is the subject of my historical fiction, Underground Angel. She did everything in her power to end slavery by creating multi-ethnic schools, developing Underground Railroad safe networks, leading groups on the Underground Railroad and delivering them to freedom on Canada's shores, She worked tirelessly and was undaunted by the $3000 bounty on her head or other threats that were hurled her direction. Do we have people in our country who would do the same today? I believe we do. You can even see the heroism of these folks who have traveled to Ukraine to rescue Ukrainians and provide for their daily needs. We need to stand together to make a difference in our own country as well!
Today I am thankful for President Biden's strong and swift response to the horrors of the Buffalo Tops mass shooting. “White supremacy is a poison. It’s a poison … running through our body politic,” Biden said, adding that silence is “complicity....And it’s been allowed to grow and fester right before our eyes,” he continued. “No more, no more. We need to say as clearly and as forcefully as we can that the ideology of White supremacy has no place in America. None.” https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/17/politics/biden-buffalo-visit-shooting/index.html
In closing, I want to share a quotation from Laura Haviland when challenged by a pro-slavery jailer on her beliefs of equal rights for all. She held nothing back and said, "We find them between the covers of the Bible....God created of one blood all the nations that dwell upon the earth.....He (the Savior) shed his precious blood for the whole human family, irrespective of nation or color. We believe all human beings are objects of redeeming love" (p. 180, Underground Angel).
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." Romans 12:9,10.
Let's Stand Together, Sheryl