Photo depicting a row of white dove cut-outs with the names of those who were killed during the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York. Flowers and bouquets line in front of the doves.

OPINION: Reflections on Buffalo

by Ernest J. Cathcart

An 18-year-old white male drove two hours to shoot African Americans shopping in a neighborhood grocery store. Of course, this has not been the first time African Americans have died at the hands of white men, and I wish to God I could say it would be the last. What we have failed to call out in this tragedy and other forms of racism over the past 400 years is the role of white supremacy.

White supremacy by my definition is not only the Klan, Proud Boys, skinheads, etc. Although their presence, actions, and ideology support it, I am speaking of the day-to-day social, economic, and political privileges that white people have that have been normalized in our society over time. It is so normalized that many have said it is like a fish in its natural habitat of water. It is this normalization of white supremacy that supports all of racism from daily microaggressions to the killings that took place in Buffalo, New York.

For this reason, we need to move away from this binary view of “good white people” and “bad white people” and understand that white supremacy benefits all white people in this country and provides them the unquestionable ability to deny the humanity of Black people and other People of Color. Until white supremacy is called out and dealt with systemically, theologically, and politically, we will see other incidents like Buffalo take place. The 18-year-old man who shot up the grocery store in Buffalo could have come out of any “good white people’s” homes, and being a Christian does not exempt anyone either.

So what can be done to deal with the pathology of white supremacy and potentially prevent what took place in Buffalo over time? Personally, I think there are numerous things that can be done, but it will take courage, humility, and intentionality on the part of whites. As a start I would like to suggest some actions that can be taken; no doubt there are numerous others:

  • White people in the context of schools, churches, and workplaces need to work with other whites to identify white supremacy and brainstorm ways to mitigate the normalization of white supremacy.
  • Every white person needs to ask themselves, “How do I contribute to white supremacy on a day-to-day basis?” and identify one action they can take to mitigate it.
  • Churches are very influential institutions; they need to identify how they support white supremacy and take actions to prevent it through using good theology.
  • Voting is an American right; whites should vote for candidates who will ensure racial equity and inclusiveness in social and political life. Not voting, or voting in any other way, is supporting white supremacy.
  • Call out TV hosts, programs, political candidates, and others who promote racial hate and white supremacy.

This is a day of opportunity for white people because they can intentionally take action to educate themselves as to white supremacy and take some practical steps for addressing it. This is not the day for white guilt but courageous action. Unfortunately, what happened in Buffalo may not end tomorrow; however, if the right actions are taken, we will see a decrease in racial violence and a potential end to it in the future.

The South Seattle Emerald is committed to holding space for a variety of viewpoints within our community, with the understanding that differing perspectives do not negate mutual respect amongst community members.

The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the contributors on this website do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the Emerald or official policies of the Emerald.

Ernest J. Cathcart received his master’s in social work from the University of Washington. He has worked in both child welfare and clinical social work. In the field of academia, he has taught at George Fox College in Newberg, Oregon, Antioch University in Seattle, Trinity Lutheran College in Issaquah, Washington, and over the years spoke in classes at the University of Washington. He has done numerous workshops and consulted on diversity and anti-racism for organizations both public and private.  He is currently retired, and he and his wife Katrina live in South Seattle.

📸 Featured Image: Memorial of flowers with dove cut-outs with the names of the victims of the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, at a Tops Friendly Market grocery store. Photo by Val Dunne Photography/

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