We did not intend to write this letter. DNDA has not historically commented on current events, yet we find ourselves compelled to write about a mass shooting on the opposite side of the country, in a community that is not our own – a shooting that is not now even the most recent mass killing to take place. We are sure that our words will not undo the harm done in one May afternoon in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. But we cannot clear our thoughts of the toxicity of this crime. We cannot stop thinking how this one act has tendrils into so many parts of modern American life. We hurt over it, and at a time like this it feels better to say something than to not.
We want to show care to our community, to our staff and to our residents. We want to be safer, we want to be less fearful, less tired, more hopeful. We want to be better.
The shooting on May 14 at a Tops market in Buffalo that killed 10 was a racist act, perpetrated in service of a racist ideology. The white man who carried out the shooting is reported to have posted online a manifesto describing his hatred of Black people, and a detailed plan to kill them.
It is impossible for us to ignore the fact that this shooting, like others before it, was an act of white supremacist ideology, and an expression of white male rage. The accused shooter followed a conspiracy theory that claims white people in the U.S. are being systematically replaced by non-white people. In addition to being demonstrably wrong, the theory also carries an implicit suggestion of white ownership — that the lands in question are “white by default”.
To be sure, white supremacy alone cannot explain all such tragedies; mass shootings are notoriously hard to quantify, but data generally shows that white people perpetrate them at a rate approximately proportionate to the population, and men commit the vast majority of mass shootings. The United States is not the only nation struggling with burgeoning white nationalist movements, though it has singularly high rates of gun violence. Gun violence, in fact, is now the leading cause of death among American youth.
Gun violence is extraordinarily high in the United States because angry young men have extraordinary access to firearms, as we most recently saw in Uvalde and Illinois. These crimes are typically driven by by racist white nationalist conspiracies, toxic masculinity, or something else.
Though lower than some states, gun ownership in Seattle and King County is substantially higher than most other first-world countries. In 2015, more than one in five adults in King County reported living in a home with a gun. That number is likely even higher in 2022, as local gun sales have spiked in recent years.
DNDA challenges ourselves and our community to have the hard conversations about guns and gun culture within our own circles. The truth is that guns put us all in more danger. They increase the likelihood of suicide (the leading cause of firearm death), homicide (the second-leading cause), and, as we have all been reminded recently, they can empower violent racists.
Strict gun control is paramount to reducing these harms, and to disempowering this particular symptom of the greater cancer of white supremacy. We urge our community to learn more about the current state of Washington’s gun laws. We urge our community to learn more about the local nonprofits doing critical work to keep communities free of gun violence.
The poison of white supremacy will not be neutralized by gun control alone. We believe a powerful way to address these tragedies is through human connection – building empathy between people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. This was the purpose of our Cultural Events Series and Let’s Talk Race Series in past years. As we continue to gain comfort gathering our community safely, we hope to return to similar, valuable programming. We also hope our programs offering youth arts and restorative justice can help provide community healing, and offer constructive paths forward for our young people.
It is natural in times of crisis to seek solace in one’s close community, and we are no different. We are grateful for the community around DNDA, and we offer solidarity to those impacted directly and indirectly by the recent terrible events. We also acknowledge that gratitude and solidarity are not enough, and we pledge our energy, our support, and our courage to the effort to combat violence and hate.