Anti-Black Racism and The Great Replacement | OP / ED | – The Suburban Newspaper

Posted By on June 2, 2022

On Saturday, May 14, an 18-year-old gunman entered a supermarket in Buffalo and opened fire. In a matter of minutes, ten innocent people were dead and three more injured. Eleven of the victims were African American, deliberately targeted because of the colour of their skin. This, in itself, is horrific, but even a cursory look at this heinous hate crime reveals a deeply troubling motive that renders this impossibly immoral act even more evil and one that should concern us all.

Before perpetrating the attack and live streaming it on social media, the murderer published his manifesto, providing insight into the ideologies that animated his killing spree. He subscribed to the Great Replacement, a racist and antisemitic conspiracy theory that claims that elites and Jews are engaged in a nefarious plot to replace white Americans with people of colour. It was the same egregious theory that, in 2018, motivated a gunman to walk into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and murder 11 people and leave another six wounded.

While what happened in Buffalo was, clearly, a racist crime targeting African Americans, the actions of the murderer were connected to a conspiracy theory that is antisemitic to its core. The horror in Buffalo serves as devastating proof that hatred of Jews has consequences well beyond the Jewish community.

As part of my duties as a rabbi, I counsel people considering converting to Judaism. I recently sat with a young man who came to see me. After listening to him recount the fascinating journey that brought him to my office, I was compelled by Jewish law to caution him. Paraphrasing the 5th century text of the Talmud, I asked, are you aware that not everyone loves us?

The longer directive in the Talmud instructs that the potential convert must be asked, are you not aware that at this time the Jewish people are despised and oppressed? Tellingly, whenever this quote was repeated in later texts and codified into Jewish Law, the phrase at this time continued to be included.

This is a sobering reminder of the persistent nature of the worlds oldest hatred.

In addition to Pittsburgh and Buffalo, on August 3, 2019, a racist murdered 21 at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, where he targeted Latinos. His manifesto cited the same conspiracy theory. He also referenced the mosque shootings earlier that year in Christchurch, New Zealand. That killer targeted Muslims and killed 51 at two mosques. Again, his manifesto cited the evil, pernicious and debunked Great Replacement Theory.

Many were perplexed by the chant Jews will not replace us heard in Charlottesville. What was regular fare at neo-Nazi and white supremacist gatherings was, suddenly, thrust into the public consciousness. Unfortunately, it has only burgeoned since that notorious Unite the Right rally in August 2017.

In a sickening confluence of hate, the Buffalo murderer wrote Virginia Sorenson on his weapon. She was one of the victims of a car ramming attack during a 2021 Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin. White supremacists have characterized the six victims of that attack as exemplars of Black on White crime, and those victims have since become martyrs for the White supremacist cause. By inscribing her name on the gun, the Buffalo killer probably imagined himself as her avenger. The disturbing irony? The Black perpetrator of the Wisconsin assault also posted hate-filled antisemitic conspiracy theories.

More examples: On December 10, 2019, inspired by the sermons of Louis Farrakhan, two Black Nationalists opened fire on a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey, killing five. On May 22, 2021, diners at a kosher restaurant were violently assaulted by leftist extremists in Los Angeles. On January 15 of this year a man entered a synagogue in Colleyvillle, Texas, demanding the release of an al-Qaeda operative imprisoned nearby.

We do not need to enumerate all recent examples to spot the pattern of hate and murder. The hate was fomented online, spread by veteran haters to their fellow believers and to young adults they seek to recruit to do the killing for them. These young, mostly white males are susceptible to the conspiracies peddled not just in the dark corners of the virtual world but, increasingly, in relatively mainstream media.

The events are linked both by the murderers wholehearted embracing of the spurious but dangerous conspiracies and by their proud references to the heinous killers they are emulating. Like others before him, the Buffalo terrorists manifesto comprised whole paragraphs from the New Zealand murderers manifesto. And, like the New Zealander, the Buffalo terrorist went in prepared to share his hate in real time with the world online.

Its that hate, grounded in antisemitism, that repeatedly manifests as violence in the real world and destroys any lives in its path.

Rabbi Reuben Poupko is the rabbi of the Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation in Montreal.


Anti-Black Racism and The Great Replacement | OP / ED | - The Suburban Newspaper

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