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The big story: Buffalo shooting underscores the US’s white supremacy problem

Sometimes it feels too easy to be flippant about mass shootings in the US   they are a tragically common occurrence and, in a world full of horrible headlines, even the most empathetic person can become jaded. But we must not look away.

On May 14, Payton S Gendron became the latest in a string of white supremacist killers when he entered a Tops Friendly Markets store in the Kingsley neighbourhood of Buffalo, New York, and murdered ten people. Gendron, 18, was arrested soon after the slaughter, and it quickly emerged that 11 of his 13 victims were black; the other two were white. It’s since emerged that Gendron allegedly started planning the attack in January 2022 – and that he was on police’s radar as far back as June 2021. He underwent mental evaluation and counselling after expressing a desire to “murder and [commit] suicide” to one of his teachers. His threats were deemed not serious enough for further action, and he was released less than 24 hours after his evaluation. 

Gendron, who is white, also crafted a manifesto in which he stated that the attack was intended to “terrorize all non-white, non-christian people to leave the country”. He also blamed Jewish people and the elite for “promoting mass immigration” and claimed that black people killed white people at disproportionate rates. The statistics don’t support this assertion. All of these beliefs are related to what white extremists (and some right-wing US media groups like Fox News) call the “great replacement theory”. This is the idea that white people across the US and Europe are being “replaced” by immigrants and minorities. 

On Sunday, just a day after Gendron’s attack, another mass shooting left one person dead and five others wounded. The suspect, David Chou, targeted a church in Orange County, California frequented by members of the Taiwanese community. It’s reported that Chou, a Chinese immigrant, was motivated by hate for Taiwanese people.

Real action is needed to grapple with the toxic combination of racism, almost unfettered access to guns, the radicalisation of young (almost always white) men and journalists using their platforms to drive hatred. Gendron and Chou join a long list of mass shooters. How much longer must that list get before something changes?