Immediately following the massacre in Buffalo, New York, I posted a video on my “Light Over Heat” YouTube channel, “Talking guns and race post-Buffalo.” These are two topics that we are bad at discussing as a society, so if you combine them it is often even worse.
As with all things, I try to avoid extremes. I’m sure there is something deeply evolutionary that makes our brains favor binaries (either/or), but the nice thing about being evolved is that we don’t have to just accept that. I am constantly trying to see issues as both/and or “yes, but…” or “no, however…” This is reflected in my most recent “Light Over Heat” video in which I discuss race and the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
Seeing the complexity of the world is aided by relationships with people from diverse backgrounds. Feedback I received on my initial post-Buffalo video led me to share some “further thoughts on the Buffalo massacre thanks to intellectual diversity” on “Light Over Heat.”
One of the points I made in that video in response to feedback is, “Yes, there is Black supremacist violence in America.” Immediately followed by, “But, it is not as deeply rooted as White supremacist violence.”
Of course, this is an empirical question. A recent opinion by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post provides some evidence that helps answer it.
Milbank begins with the story of Garnell Whitfield who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his mother, Ruth, who was killed in the Buffalo supermarket massacre.
“What are you doing?” Whitfield demanded of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee at their hearing on Tuesday. “Is there nothing that you personally are willing to do to stop the cancer of white supremacy and the domestic terrorism it inspires?” With breaking voice and sniffles, he added: “My mother’s life mattered. Your actions here today will tell us how much it matters to you.”
Much like those who responded to my initial video talking race and guns post-Buffalo, Milbank observes, “Then, Republicans on the panel answered — with accounts of violence committed by Black people and antifa.” They notably included two cases that were mentioned in comments on my own video: the Brooklyn subway shooter and the Waukesha Christmas parade car attacker.
“The Brooklyn subway shooter was a known Black supremacist who called for racial violence,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.). “The Waukesha attacker … was a viciously left-wing Black nationalist bigot. Another Black nationalist gunned down five police officers in Dallas.” Cruz went on, about “the violence of the antifa riots and the Black Lives Matter riots.”
As noted, the relative balance of left-wing Black nationalist violence and right-wing White nationalist violence is an empirical question. Milbank addresses it as follows:
Since 2015, when the recent upsurge in political violence began, the brutality has been overwhelmingly perpetrated by the far right. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, right-wing extremists (generally either white supremacist or anti-government) were involved in 267 plots or attacks and 91 fatalities from 2015 through 2020. Far-left extremists (anarchists, anti-fascists) were involved in 66 incidents and 19 deaths. The proportion of left-wing attacks and plots increased in 2021 (40 percent of the total, compared to 49 percent by right-wing extremists), but right-wing attacks remained far deadlier, accounting for 28 of 30 political-violence fatalities in 2021.
These data are in line with the overall point I tried to make in my follow-up video: this is not an inverse of Trump’s “good people on both sides” situation. There are bad people on all sides, but not in equal amounts or to equal extents.
If there are other DATA that address the issue of extremist violence, I am happy to learn about it. Please share in the comments or email me.