Faith Groups Invoke Secular Ethics to Call for Civic Action against Hate Induced Violence

Photo by Colin Lloyd on Unsplash

“May we all rise up…”

Introduction

It was heartening to see the statements of two major faith-based groups (posted below) in response to the Buffalo massacre that took the lives of ten and seriously wounded three more, all but one African Americans, in a deliberately and elaborately planned racist hate crime. They leave the religious response of “thoughts and prayers” to others, as they as citizens, voice ethical, civically imperative, and very practical calls to action, all of which fully respect the principle of “separation of church and state” and therefore of relevance to both faith-based and secular peace education.

The Interfaith Center of New York and Bend the Arc, a Jewish peace organization, in statements complementing each other, make points of fundamental concern to all citizens, and thereby, to peace education as a means of learning toward engagement in actions of civic responsibility. The Interfaith Center of New York advocates non-partisan political and social action that any and every citizen can take to respond to two significant dimensions of the shattering crime – relieving the consequent human suffering and eliminating elements of the causative factors – by funding material assistance to the victimized community and working to pass legislation to ban one type of weapon so often used to perpetrate these increasingly frequent hate-based slaughters of people, targeted as members of a racial or religious group the perpetrators have been indoctrinated to fear as threats to their own identities and wellbeing. Some perpetrators and their supporters declare a refusal to be “replaced” by those not worthy of equality.

These factors all raise issues that should be addressed by peace education, in this particular Buffalo case, in the United States, and in the cases of so many similar acts of “identity violence” in many countries around the world where such slaughters have also occurred. We urge peace educators to invite students to read several accounts of the Buffalo supermarket massacre, and in general discussion review all the facts of the case that the various accounts provide. With the facts of the event as the foundation, the learning group should then read and reflect on the Interfaith Center and the Bend the Arc posts, followed by a group inquiry that addresses queries proposed below.

Bend the Arc urges its readers to “… rise up against the dangerous white nationalist ideologies that inspired this violent attack,”

  • Why is it that ideologies is used in the plural? Among us can we identify several modes of thought or frameworks we would characterize as white nationalist?
  • What do you make of the statement using the word, inspired rather than the word, caused in referring to what led to the attack? What relevance might the word choice have to responsibility? What relevance does the intentionality of the perpetrator, as evidenced in the detailed planning of the massacre, have to his individual responsibility? Can you describe a web or a chain of responsibility for this and other mass killings? What might be the position of elected leaders and the general public in your web or chain? What might be asked of each now to eliminate these hate crimes? Why might responding require “moral courage and political strength?” What might we need to learn to develop that courage and strength?

The Interfaith Center of New York directly advocates for state legislation to ban assault rifles as proposed by the Governor.

  • In what ways might this legislation mitigate mass hate violence? Do you believe that the ban is sufficient to significantly reduce gun violence? What additional legislation might be called for?
  • What might be necessary to eliminate the widespread personal ownership of guns that is at epidemic proportions in the United States? What other forms of violence and accidental tragedies occur as a consequence of so many guns in so many hands? Are these circumstances that society needs to “live with?” If you believe that the situation should/could be changed, what role might peace education play in achieving the change?

BAR, 5/18/22

Bend the Arc: Jewish Action – May 17, 2022 Newsletter

Subject: Buffalo, NY

(See also: Bend the Arc statement on the white supremacist massacre of ten Black people in Buffalo, NY)

May the memories of all ten Black Americans murdered in Buffalo this weekend be a blessing. And may we all rise up against the dangerous white nationalist ideologies that inspired this violent attack.

This weekend, we were reminded of an old and enduring truth: white supremacy is the greatest threat to the dream of a democratic America where every single person can be safe and thrive.

Whether we are walking through the doors of our community’s supermarkets, shopping centers, synagogues, mosques, or churches, every single one of us deserves to be safe.

On Saturday, a white nationalist drove to Buffalo, NY with the intention of murdering Black people, killing ten and injuring more. Once again, our hearts are torn apart and we are filled with rage in the aftermath of an act of white supremacist terror.

We are praying for the recovery of those injured and we mourn the victims: Celestine Chaney, 65; Roberta Drury, 32; Andre Mackniel, 53; Katherine Massey, 72; Margus D. Morrison, 52; Heyward Patterson, 67; Aaron W. Salter, 55; Geraldine Talley, 62; Ruth Whitfield, 86; and Pearly Young, 77.

May their memories be a blessing, and may their legacy be action. Our multiracial Jewish community extends our love, solidarity, and support to the Black community in Buffalo and all who are in pain.

This attack was no accident. The alleged shooter drove several hours to target this neighborhood — choosing a supermarket Black Buffalo residents lobbied for years to get — with the intention to murder as many Black people as he could.1

The shooter’s manifesto cites the dangerous lie of “great replacement,” a racist and antisemitic conspiracy theory which claims Jewish people are behind efforts to replace white Americans, often through immigration or elections. This very same lie echoed in gunshots aimed at Jewish people in Pittsburgh in 2018 and immigrants in El Paso in 2019.2,3

This is no coincidence. The idea of “replacement” is an old one, now tailored to spread white panic in a time of changing demographics in the United States.

In recent years, this lie has gone from the fringes of the white nationalist movement to the mainstream of right-wing political rhetoric. A growing number of rightwing politicians and pundits — from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson to Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third highest-ranking Republican in the House — are spreading this lie to audiences of millions.4,5

Now, a poll released last week shows that nearly half of Republican voters agree to at least some extent with “replacement theory” — the same idea that inspired the massacre in Buffalo.6

This is a strategy. In the face of a growing movement for multiracial democracy, Black liberation, and freedom for all, these politicians and pundits are cynically stoking white grievances to manufacture division and fear in order to grow their power, no matter who gets hurt. They aim to keep people of all races and classes from working across lines of difference to win the things we all need to thrive.

We must respond to this moment with the full moral courage and political strength it requires. Defeating this concerted threat to the safety of our communities and our country’s democracy must be the number one priority of our Jewish institutions.

Together, we will build a country where everyone is able to live with freedom, safety, and belonging — no matter our race, how we pray, or where we come from.

In solidarity,
The Bend the Arc team

P.S. In recent years, Bend the Arc has been tracking this conspiracy theory and working to hold the politicians and pundits who spread it accountable. We’ve posted a thread on Twitter with multiple facts and videos you need to understand what’s happening now. Please read and share if you’re interested.

Sources

1. The New York Times, Gunman Targeted Black Neighborhood Shaped by Decades of Segregation
2. NPR, What is the ‘Great Replacement’ and how is it tied to the Buffalo shooting suspect?
3. The New York Times, How Buffalo Suspect’s Racist Writings Reveal Links to Other Attacks
4. Mother Jones, The Buffalo Shooter’s Manifesto Relied on the Same White Supremacist Conspiracy Pushed by Tucker Carlson
5. The Washington Post, Rep. Elise Stefanik echoed racist theory allegedly espoused by Buffalo suspect
6. The Washington Post, Nearly half of Republicans agree with ‘great replacement theory’


Statement and Resources: Anti-Black Domestic Terror in Buffalo

The Interfaith Center of New York

(see original statement here)

The Interfaith Center of New York extends our deepest condolences to the families of the 10 Buffalo residents who lost their lives to domestic terrorism and anti-black hate this past weekend. Our prayers are also for the three individuals injured, for those who witnessed the massacre, and for the wider community for whom challenges of structural racism were already substantial before a violent and radicalized White Supremacist opened fire in their local supermarket.

This mass shooting stands in a long line of others: 2012 at the Oak Creek gurdwara, 2015 at Mother Emmanuel, 2018 at the Tree of Life synagogue, 2019 at an El Paso Walmart, 2019 at mosques in Christchurch, 2021 at Asian-owned small businesses in Atlanta, and too many others. As a major anti-Black killing, however, this shooting occupies its own place in the unique history of racist violence in the US, going back to slavery, family separation, lynching, and Jim Crow.

As the Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop and native of Buffalo, the Most Rev. Michael Curry says “The loss of any human life is tragic, but there was deep racial hatred driving this shooting, and we have got to turn from the deadly path our nation has walked for much too long.” For Bishop Curry’s full statement click here.

As an organization that seeks to make our city safe from racism and religious bigotry, ICNY join members of the state and greater community in mourning these preventable deaths and shattering losses. Below are a few suggestions for taking action beyond prayer:

VoiceBuffalo has served the community in Buffalo for many years. You can donate both for food distribution and diapers and hygiene products here. You can find them on Facebook here.

Likewise, the Muslim Public Policy Council of Buffalo has worked with the Churches and the Community leadership to support the victims and their families. The Muslim Community, through Jami Masjid, has established a fund for “Tops Market Shooting Victims” to support the families of the victims. The money raised will support funeral costs and medical expenses. The link is here.

Governor Kathy Hochul is to propose a bill expanding the state’s existing ban on some assault weapons. Her proposal will also include changes that could be made to New York’s laws to address an expected ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that could strike down New York’s restrictions on carrying a concealed weapon. Let the Governor know your views about these proposals and contact the New York State Council of Churches [email protected].

Sincerely,

Rev. Dr. Chloe Breyer
Executive Director
The Interfaith Center of New York

 

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