What a law professor says the Buffalo shooting tells us about racism in America

May 16, 2022, 8:06 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 4:19 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — As familiar scenes of hate and heartache continue to pour in from Buffalo, New York, the conversation for many turns to the motivation behind the shooting that killed 10 people and injured three others.

A law professor says the attack is sadly just the latest example that America has not moved past racism.

“For anybody who thinks we’ve moved on from the 1950’s or the 1960’s is living in ‘Lala land,’ and I think this just reinforces that,” Amos Guiora said.

Amos Guiora is a law professor at the University of Utah and is considered an expert in areas like extremism, terrorism, criminal law, and national security.

Guiora points to the attacks at a mosque in New Zealand, a synagogue in Pittsburg, and a black church in South Carolina, as examples of the problem. One reason why he says he was not at all surprised to hear the news out of Buffalo over the weekend.

“I think maybe the most disheartening thing about Buffalo — above and beyond the terrible tragedy of 10 people killed — is that nobody who follows the news in America should be surprised,” he said. “And that’s a terrible thing.”

Guiora says “racism and unhinged antisemitism have become legitimized” and enabled “by three distinct actors”:

  1. Politicians
  2. Members of the media
  3. Social Media platforms

“I think politicians — in this case, those on the right — legitimize and enable this kind of behavior through their speech. Do they want this to happen? I think not,” he said.

Authorities in Buffalo say of the 13 people the gunman shot, 11 of them were Black. Police believe he was out to kill as many Black people as possible.

In a 180-page document from the suspect, he writes that he was influenced by a controversial social media platform. He also talks about “the great replacement theory” — a racist ideology that claims there’s an effort to replace white Americans.

“There’s just too much hatred,” Jeanetta Williams said, president of the Salt Lake City branch of the NAACP. “It’s like a life — a person’s life — doesn’t matter at all when they can just say, ‘I’m just going to go and kill a lot of Black people.’”

Williams says now is a time “when people need to really stop and look at how they treat people. And look at what they think and maybe even what they watch on TV.”

Williams also spoke of the need for better gun control.

Guiora has written books and lectures on the subject of racism in America. He acknowledges he has many critics and some of his ideas and the solutions he proposes are controversial.

Guiora wants to see social media regulated, like the FCC regulates broadcasts on TV and the radio.

He also says he believes it’s time to talk about hate speech from people in the media and politics, or what he called, “a very complicated and difficult and uncomfortable conversation about the limits of the first amendment.”

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What a law professor says the Buffalo shooting tells us about racism in America