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White Supremacy Is Not Fiction, Vivek

By: Dr. Shyam K. Sriram and Brianna Forzani, Contributors


Dear Mr. Ramaswamy,


The Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue here in Buffalo, New York was once an everyday grocery store, where community members came together to shop, eat and even just talk. On May 14, 2022, everything changed when Payton Gendron, a white, teenage male drove from Conklin, New York to Buffalo to murder Black people. He opened fire, killing ten victims. As a member of the Buffalo community, it seems unreal to hear anyone describe white supremacy with terms often used about mythic figures like unicorns or bigfoot, as you did in Pella, Iowa this past August.


Before saying anything, we ask that you remember the people that we lost that day: Ruth Whitfield, Roberta Drury, Aaron Salter Jr., Heyward Patterson, Pearl Young, Geraldine Talley, Celestine Chaney, Katherine “Kat” Massey, Margus Morrison and Andre Mackniel. Ten names that now only exist in memories, all because of a white supremacist. It is well documented in political science literature that primary candidates often pander to the most ideologically extreme voters in the months leading up to an election. Your comments, for example, about reinterpreting the 14th Amendment to redefine birthright citizenship are proof of your interest in trying to gather as many supporters across an ideological spectrum.


Now, before you call us snowflakes, “offended” by your words, let us clarify one

thing. We are writing this opinion essay and letter to you not to simply respond to your statement that “I’m sure the boogeyman white supremacist exists somewhere in America. I’ve just never met him.” We are writing because as Americans, we want leadership in the White House that does not pander to performative rhetoric like “thoughts and prayers.” Neither will heal the pain felt here in Buffalo and in all the other towns and cities that have lost loved ones to racial violence because that is what happened here.


It would be easy enough to describe what Payton Gendron did as a “mental health issue.” But it was not. Rather, he not only chose Buffalo, but the specific area to cause the most damage to minorities based on Gendron being brainwashed by replacement theory (the opening salvo in his manifesto). He goes on to reference “white genocide,” a conspiracy theory, and then affirms David Lane’s Fourteen Words: “We must ensure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” This is the very definition of white supremacy; it is what frames this mass murderer’s whole objective in carrying out this act of domestic terrorism.


As Buffalo residents, our hearts shatter into a million pieces when people minimize the shooting. The Buffalo community is forever changed. The relatives of the victims will never be able to speak to their grandmothers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, or husbands ever again. If you want to be president so badly, Mr. Ramaswamy, then perhaps you should avoid becoming what you apparently dislike: a sellout.


Shyam K. Sriram is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science.

Brianna Forzani is a first-year student majoring in Political Science.


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