A Partial Answer

Nature or nurture? It’s one of those questions we raise again and again in many discussions. Today I just want to talk about racism and travel back to a few places not that many years ago.

My regular readers know I was born in Buffalo, New York, grew up in its suburbs and was educated in them and the city itself. The last five years of my coaching career were spent at Buffalo State.

Saturday an 18-year-old white male, motivated by white supremacist rhetoric, traveled from Broome County, New York – about a three-hour road trip – and murdered 10 people in an act of domestic terrorism. He entered a supermarket in a predominantly Black section of highly de facto segregated Buffalo at peak shopping time and opened fire with an assault style weapon while wearing body armor and a helmet on which was mounted a camera that live streamed the event. There is a lot there but today I want to focus on the motivation. Before I do I want to fill you in a bit on some history to put my comments a bit more in context.

I left Western New York in late 1999. The supermarket in question opened in 2003 solving one food desert issue, (another topic for another day). I heard the area described as being 71% Black. That number struck me as low. The only ways that can be true is if the neighborhood gentrified quite a bit in the last 20 some years or, more likely, the Canisus College campus was included in the census. Canisus is just under a mile away and is a private Catholic college whose student body is predominantly white.

I vividly remember getting a police escort out of Broome County in the 90s when our largely Black, Buffalo State team beat a local lily white team. The crowd attacked us after the game as an encore to the racial taunts we were treated to during it. I’m sure the local law enforcement officials were just happy to get us out of their county.

My whole point is that racism, and all the misguided hate that goes with it, are learned. Racists aren’t born that way; they are raised that way. It’s early but the shooter doesn’t appear to be some deep thinker. More likely he was influenced by an upbringing that included “pearls of wisdom” about how he was superior by virtue of his skin hue and other were inferior and a threat based on the same.
His nurture appears to have included right wing mythology dispensed by right wing media. The Replacement Theory appears to have been a major motivating factor for the shooter.

I could go on about the armament and where were the parents, but alas they were probably a huge part of the problem. My point is that racists are bred not born that way. There is a decent chance the shooter will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. What happens to the people who polluted his mind and facilitated the murder of 10 innocent people? I’m not absolving the shooter of guilt; far from it! I’m just saying that in totality he did not act alone and incarcerating him only solves a small part of a much larger problem.

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One thought on “A Partial Answer”

  1. The parents of that kid should be held accountable in some way for either encouraging his development or not discouraging his development.

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