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Criminal Justice

The Reading List: How Black Buffalo Became the Target of White Supremacist Hate

A guide to the history of Black Buffalo and the racism that proceeded the mass shooting.

Chantaye Hawkins embraces her husband Curtis Hawkins outside of a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, days after 10 Black people were fatally shot there on May 14. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Tops grocery store where a gunman killed 10 people this month is now the site of one of the deadliest acts of racial violence in recent United States history. The rampage targeted a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, that has suffered generations of segregation, pollution, and neglect.

The 18-year-old charged in the shooting allegedly wrote that he was motivated by a belief in the “great replacement theory,” which states that an influx of people of color will lead the white race into extinction. In a 180-page document, he outlined his plans to target the Black community. 

East Buffalo is a community that takes pride in its Black history, culture, and arts. It’s also plagued by systemic racism. Here’s a list of articles, podcasts, and reports that shed light on East Buffalo, its history, and how the shooting reflects broader societal dynamics in the United States. 

On Black Buffalo:

Buffalo is ‘ground zero’ for lead poisoning: The Investigative Post reports on the high rate of lead poisoning among the children of Erie County, where Buffalo is located — triple the rate of the statewide average.

FIGMOS ptl: A Supermarket Story: In this documentary, the Buffalo History Channel tells the story of Douglas Goggins, a Black entrepreneur who opened a grocery store in East Buffalo. The name FIGMOS stands for “Finally, I Got My Own Supermarket.”

A frantic call, a relieved family: ‘Grandma, are you at Tops?’: For Buffalo’s local paper, journalist Sean Kirst profiles Eva Doyle, a resident who shops at Tops supermarket on Jefferson Avenue every weekend — except the Saturday of the shooting. 

On racial violence:

The Racist Theory Behind So Many Mass Shootings: In its podcast “The Daily,” The New York Times unpacks the racist theory that motivated the attack. 

Buffalo Shooting Highlights Rise of Hate Crimes Against Black Americans: The New York Times reporters Audra D. S. Burch and Luke Vander Ploeg dig into the Buffalo attack’s place in a surge of violence against Black Americans. 

What is the ‘great replacement’ and how is it tied to the Buffalo shooting suspect?: This NPR article breaks down what “great replacement” means, the origins of the conspiracy theory and its role in hate crimes. 

On systemic racism in upstate New York:

A City Divided: A Brief History of Segregation in Buffalo: This 2018 report by Partnership for the Public Good dives deep into the history that made Buffalo one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the country, from redlining to the construction of a highway through the neighborhood. 

The Harder We Run: This report, published in September 2021, found that Black Buffalo has suffered three decades of socioeconomic stagnation. The authors write, “‘The harder we run, the further we fall behind,’ seems appropriate for Black Buffalo.”

Most to Least Segregated Cities in 2020: An analysis by the University of California Berkeley outlines the most segregated cities across the country. Buffalo ranks among the top 20. 

The Cost of Incarceration in New York State: In this 2020 report, the Vera Institute of Justice explores the consequences of incarceration in Erie County. 

Community Policing Survey Data: Open Buffalo, a racial, economic, and ecological justice organization, surveyed residents on policing in Buffalo in the spring of 2016.