The news of the tragic shootings that occurred this last weekend is deeply disturbing, painful and horrific. On May 14, a shooter killed 10 people from the African American community while they shopped at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y. In total, 13 people were shot, including 11 who are African American and two who are white. According to media outlets, the gunman held racist, antisemitic and anti-immigrant beliefs. On May 15, a gunman in Laguna Woods, Calif. shot six people, killing one, while they attended church. Fortunately, the shooter was subdued by parishioners, which minimized the harm.
Many of the people killed in the Buffalo shooting were elderly citizens who lived through the challenges that the Jim Crow Era presented, only to find a new form of hate that has manifested in our society. Some, such as Aaron Salter, a 55-year-old retired police officer who worked as a security guard at the grocery store and confronted the shooter, died this weekend while saving the lives of others.
Race-based hate is a great tragedy and a stain on our humanity. Humans have done so many great and wonderful things, but learning how to hate each other based on race and ethnicity, religion, gender, ability status, sexuality or gender expression places us in a category no other species owns. We are our own enemies when we hate, and we must all strive to create the conditions and the context where people matter equally because of who they are as human beings. How our society created an environment that led these shooters to feel such contempt for their fellow human beings is a question we should all ponder. I encourage anyone reading these words to consider what you can do to promote understanding, compassion, empathy and love in our community.
Early information indicates that the alleged 18-year-old shooter in Buffalo was motivated by conspiracy theories. Fortunately, the University of Utah is a place where we dispel conspiracy with reasoned debate and knowledge development based on the use of the broad scientific process. We have a commitment to building a better world though understanding, belonging and a celebration of life and human diversity. It is important that we continue on this pathway and that we celebrate not only our own lives, but the lives of those we don’t know — even those who do not look like us.
This heartbreaking news requires all of us to consider the impact of hate that leads to violence, and what we individually and collectively can do to create a better world by renouncing brutality. The good that can come from this tragedy is found in our consideration and kindness towards one another. The days ahead will bring grief from the loss of family and community members and our hearts go out to members of the Buffalo community.
For members of our University Community, our campus services stand ready to assist our students, staff and faculty who may be experiencing feelings of discomfort from these events.
Martell Teasley, Ph.D., MSW
Interim Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs