Editorial: Virulent white supremacy has become normalized. And we let it happen

Jeanne LeGall hugs Claudia Carballada at a makeshift memorial
Jeanne LeGall hugs Claudia Carballada at a makeshift memorial as people gather at the scene of a mass shooting at a Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo on May 15.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The ugly truth is that while Americans, especially those in the white establishment, shake their heads and maybe even shed some tears over the 10 Black people gunned down in Buffalo over the weekend in another apparently racially motivated attack, we’re growing accustomed to the virulent white supremacy that may have driven it.

How long did the shock last after the killing of 23 people, most of them Latino, at an El Paso Walmart in 2019? How long after 11 people were killed at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 or nine Black churchgoers were murdered inside the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015? Hours, even a few days, but never long enough to decide that we have had enough.

Instead, Americans have ignored the insidious creep of white supremacy into the public discourse to the point that is has become normalized and has radicalized extremist politicians such as U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, and similar Trump-aligned politicians to the point that they now feel comfortable repeating the lie that Democrats and American Jews are plotting to replace white voters with people of color.


A ‘lone wolf’ killer? That might be a comforting thought, if only it were true.

May 16, 2022

The so-called replacement theory has been repeated by Tucker Carlson of Fox News hundreds of times in recent years. And it is what allegedly motivated the 18-year-old white man who police say drove hundreds of miles to a largely Black neighborhood in Buffalo to gun down people who were trying to work or buy food for the week ahead.

Although only a few politicians openly support this garbage, the Republican Party has done almost nothing to reject, denounce or investigate radicalized white supremacists, perhaps more afraid of alienating nativist constituents than they are of allowing certain groups — especially Black Americans — to be victimized repeatedly to the point where they have to fear ordinary activities. And that is just one aspect of how racism, especially racism against Black people, becomes part of the system.

Ironically (or perhaps intentionally), even as conservative elected officials tolerate the radical and racist theories within their ranks, they insist that there is no systemic racism in the U.S. — and want classrooms to reflect this revisionist view. So far, at least a dozen states have passed laws limiting or banning the teaching of critical race theory in public schools and more than 10 others are considering similar legislation.

Critical race theory is little understood, and it does not have to be divisive. But the uproar over ethnic studies in public schools is clouding the realities.

Aug. 8, 2021

Critical race theory examines racism as embedded in society and our daily lives, and in many aspects of legislative and legal systems. That is not a radical thought. We regularly fail to provide an equal education to children of color, then blame them for not overcoming the enormous barriers of poverty, inequality and criminalization that society places in their path.

The normalization of the fringe begins when we fail to accept the reality of more common forms of racism, and take little to no action against its more horrifying forms. Why does Fox News allow Carlson to shoot off his mouth in hateful, ignorant and dangerous ways? Why do legislators refuse to accept the idea that if we don’t teach children about racism in the many forms it takes today, they will grow up more susceptible to it and less able to stand against it?

The death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer shocked much of the nation into realizing that the Black community was justified in its complaints about treatment by law enforcement. The shooting in Buffalo should similarly become the clarion call about the danger of virulent white supremacy to the stability of our nation.