Column: After the Buffalo shooting, Republican politicians have blood on their hands

A woman lights a candle at an outdoor memorial
Alexis Rodriguez lights candles Monday as people gather at the scene of the mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

This week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on abortion access featured, shall we say, some interesting moments. Such as Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life, testifying that aborted fetuses help power streetlights in Washington, and Republican Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina trying to create a gotcha moment by asking women to define the word “woman.”

Now, throughout history, both Republicans and Democrats have used hearings of this nature to score political points, so the partisan grandstanding wasn’t unexpected. Still, given what’s at stake, I was hoping for more substance and fewer theatrics. In retrospect I was hoping for the impossible, especially given that the hearing was held just four days after the mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y.

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By now we all know the details: the racist nature of the attack and the 180-page manifesto attributed to the accused. It seems clear his motives were shaped by some of the same rhetoric repeated by far-right figureheads and politicians. The “great replacement theory” — the fear that white Christian Americans are systematically being replaced by immigrants, people of color and non-Christians for political purposes — is something that has been echoed by Republican politicians and Fox News personalities like Tucker Carlson for years.

So yeah, I guess I should have expected Bishop, who authored North Carolina’s infamous “bathroom bill,” to try to change the national conversation by using a hearing about abortion to express his dislike of transgender people. That’s certainly easier than trying to condemn white supremacy in a way that doesn’t offend the white supremacists in one’s voter base.

Not that it matters. Conservative elected officials can condemn white supremacy and the great replacement theory on social media until their fingers cramp. We all know how they feel about matters of race. It’s apparent through the books the party seeks to ban, the history it wants to remain hidden and the legislation it turns into law. With the hope to take over Congress in the midterm elections this fall, there is little chance Republican leaders will say anything that could alienate constituents who consider what happened in Buffalo to be a step in the right direction.

White supremacists vote too, you know.

“Racism of any sort is abhorrent in America and ought to be stood up to by everybody, both Republicans, Democrats, all Americans,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, said on Tuesday, as if we hadn’t all seen him avoid criticizing President Trump’s racist language and policies for four years.

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During the judiciary hearing, Rep. Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, seemed irritated that one of the witnesses characterized his state as “an inhospitable place” because of its draconian abortion laws and asked the witness if she knew how many people had moved to Texas in the last decade.


“Do you know what that number is?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said.

“Four million people have moved to Texas in the last decade,” he said. “That’s the entire population of Alabama.”

Now, let’s look at what he didn’t say: The Department of Justice is suing Texas because, while 95% of that population growth is attributable to people of color, the redistricting map his party created and signed into law increased the number of majority-white districts. State Republicans intentionally diminished the power of Latino and Black voters by attaching their communities to heavily white districts.

The Voting Rights Act was a safeguard against that long-documented racist practice until the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 to essentially gut it. The 5-4 decision ran along presumed political ideologies. After that ruling, Texas closed 750 polling places through 2020, mostly in counties with large communities of color.

The next time you see Roy or any Texas elected official talk about the state’s population growth, please keep that in mind. And the next time you hear rumbles about “replacement,” remember who is actually being replaced — silenced by racist redistricting.

This kind of gerrymandering is just one example of how white supremacy is kept alive. Bans on wearing a hijab or natural Black hairstyle would be another. Doesn’t matter what they call it: We all can see what it really is. Racism doesn’t always come with the violence we saw in Buffalo. But when it does, I find politicians and talking heads to be the unrepentant ghost writers of racist shooters’ manifestos.