Justice in Aging is devastated, sick, and angry about the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, Dallas, Texas, and Orange County, California, and we bear witness in solidarity with the communities impacted by these latest incidences of violence and hate. The tragic and unnecessary loss of lives, many of those older adults, is a collective trauma experienced by these communities and the families of the victims.
In many of these crimes, a majority of those shot are older adults. In Buffalo, 11 of 13 victims, including nine people who were murdered, are age 50 and older. In Orange County, the five Taiwanese victims are all older adults, ranging in age from 66 to 92. While we do not know the ages of all the victims in Dallas, or the full details of what happened, many crimes targeting Asian women have been against older adults. The fact that so many victims are older and were killed while shopping, working, and socializing at church reminds us how integral older adults are to our communities, and to communities of color in particular.
There is often overlooked intersectional discrimination in these cases as well. The locations of these shootings, where people gather, may be viewed as “easy targets” in part due to ageist stereotypes that the people inside, older adults, are vulnerable.
The hate crime in Buffalo, which targeted Black people, is a horrific reminder that simply living in the U.S. as a person of color is dangerous. Racist people emboldened by white supremacy culture are targeting and killing Black, Asian, and other people of color at the grocery store, at work, at places of worship, at home, while running, while walking, while using public transportation, while driving, while living their lives.
The shooting in Buffalo is part of a long history of racist violence by white supremacists targeting Black communities, including the Tulsa massacre in 1921, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, and, more recently, the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston in 2015 in which a neo-Nazi killed ten Black parishioners. And these are just the most famous of thousands of such attacks in our history. As one Buffalo community member who regularly shops at the store that was targeted said, “The pain is in our DNA at this point. It’s in my great-grandfather, my father. It’s in me.”
As the African American Policy Forum pointed out in its statement, similar white supremacy-fueled mass killings, including the attacks on Latinos shopping in El Paso, Texas, Jews praying in synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Asian Americans in Atlanta, Georgia, demonstrate the persistent and systemic racism that exists in our nation.
As with so many racialized atrocities, we must stay vigilant to ensure these mass shootings happening all across America are never normalized. Instead, we must confront these attacks with multigenerational, community-based solutions, policy change, and creative cross-racial coalition building.
Justice in Aging renews our commitment to fighting hate, white supremacy, and racism by breaking down the inequitable systems that undergird our nation’s laws and policies and rebuilding more equitable systems so that everyone can age with justice and dignity.