White Media Amnesia

Replacement Theory’s Southern Manifesto Ghost Haunts Buffalo Massacre

White Centrist Journalist at Work
White Centrist Journalist at Work Suffering Amnesia at Deadline — (And Yes, I used this photo before, but they just can’t seem to remember)

The single biggest problem for black America is white amnesia. OK, that’s a clear exaggeration. On the individual daily life, black Americans are caught up in their personal struggles. In my hometown, Buffalo NY, they were doing exactly that when a white supremacist manifested himself suddenly, killing 10 people and wounding 3 more in a “black” neighborhood grocery store.

But the reporting is just as responsible for creating the atmosphere where racism breeds and encourages young 18 year olds to commit these horrors, mass murders. It’s the disease of white media amnesia. It begs me to ask:

Where have you been all your American History, white media?

In short, mainstream media outlets report: Blacks were massacred by a white supremacist May 14, 2022. 10 people died and 3 were injured. It was one of the largest racially motives massacres of “recent” times.

To wit, even the “highest” form of the most “dignified” mainstream media frequently do not reference what is called American History but instead reflect a mainstream white media narrative devoid of our violent past. I’m not talking about the far rightwing hate channels like OAN and Fox’s Carlson, but “regular” centrist media. The New York Times write-up is typical to what I see on a daily basis and what I noticed is actually pervasive since George Floyd’s murder. They wrote after in their post-shooting analysis of the Buffalo killer: “Gunmen have referenced the racist idea, known as “replacement theory,” during a string of mass shootings and other violence in recent years.” The Replacement Theory is something they referred to they investigated three years earlier. Three years earlier it was investigated for the first time? Really? They seem to feign surprise as though this is just something now, in the headlines, by a fringe of youngsters: Some young teenagers were “inspired” by this new idea? Oh, kids are so nutty. Gosh, where did this come from? These kids get such crazy ideas. They go by the latest fad and trend.

Here’s a better idea. This type of racism is not “far-right”, not new, but a mainstream right strategy. It is a reflection of a fundamental political strategy that began shortly, and deliberately, after the Civil War to repress black Americans from engaging in democracy, for expressing their rights. It is one that resulted in this statement, not made by a crazy kid, but by a grown adult, a political leader, a democratically elected mainstream Senator said:

“We of the South have never recognized the right of the negro to govern the white man, and we never will. We have never believed him to be equal to the white man.”

That may have been 1901, but he made it as a “victory speech.” 25 years from the first two massacres he partook in, where he led a brigade of Red Shirts (like the Klan but worse, with no masks and violent tactics with guns) in the Hamburg and Ellenton massacres, Senator Ben “pitchfork” Tillman (real nickname) later showed the massacres not just a moment of cruel enraged racial violence but a true political strategy. It would be hard to imagine a senator humble-bragging of his violent repressive deeds that resulted in an effective political racist strategy today, but not impossible to imagine examples of it.

In fact, hard not to see. From the fist-raising of Senator Josh Hawley on January 6, 2021 to show solidarity with the racists about to overrun the Capitol, to Senator Cruz derisively mocking a black woman in front of the cameras on the Senate floor by making her comment on a children’s book (his showing more qualified than him Judge Kentaji Jackson-Brown a children’s book “antiracist baby” that has nothing to do with her job experience she had or would do).

These are open displays of the same prevalent “replacement theory” examples made by current Senators that line the history books. Senator Tillman “fondly” and “poetically” recalled in 1909 those massacres he took part in 33 years when gathering with his friends in the racist militia (the red shirts) who helped him. He told them how they did not give into “the fanatical teachings and fiendish hate of those [Northern Liberal Lincoln Republicans] who sought to substitute the rule of the African for that of the Caucasian in South Carolina.”

There are plenty of examples and “echoes” of this anti-black American “theme” stretching back to recent presidential eras from the present examples I give. Countless examples on constant cruelty told in a genteel politician way, like Reagan’s Welfare Queen to Bush 41 the elders “crack mothers” to Hillary Clinton’s black “superpredator”. Not to mention the violent ones before that era: the “Last Lynching” in 1946 Georgia, the rediscovered 1971 lynching of a black woman (I have to read the article, just save it), to lynching in 1981 in Alabama that wasn’t an “official” lynching since it was eventually prosecuted.

But I would rather end with the quote I read from a Medium writer who “enlightened” me a little bit. It sits between the South Carolina senator Tillman in 1901 and the recent Trump era of nouveau racism, made by the southern Southern SC Senator who occupied Tillman’s seat and legacy. (I was already aware of his racism, so couldn’t be fully enlightened). In 1948, when Senator Strum Thurmond was running for President, he stated proudly, fully possessed by Tillman’s ghost and legacy: “There’s not enough troops in the army to force the southern people to break down segregation and admit the n#@*%r race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.” In other words, they will never be replaced.

A good dose of history might heal the journalistic collective memory lapse trying to forget American history, or worse never having learned it. This kid who did the massacring in Buffalo wasn’t a lone wolf, but an armed confederate possessed by ghosts of massacres past.

Maybe white American centrist journalist amnesia would be better written by black American journalist ‘never-forgetting’ long-term memory. Heavy doses of vivid remembrance might better cure short term narratives and favor deeper, more connected truths.

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Bren Kelly

Bren Kelly

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Engaged in new Ideas and old Inequalities, putting the system back into systemic, born on the 50th Anniversary of Women's Lib Day, still seeking injustices.