On May 14, an 18-year-old white man killed 10 people at a Buffalo, N.Y, supermarket, chosen because it was an area with many Black residents, according to a manifesto left by the shooter. The online manifesto also referred to antisemitic conspiracy theories and identified several prominent Jews.
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the shooting as “a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement, JTA reported.
Tyler Samuels reflects on the shooting and the lessons for Canadian Jews:
A peaceful Shabbat was broken once more due to the virulent hatred of a white supremacist. Thirteen people, 11 of whom were Black, were gunned down mercilessly because of their skin colour, but this violence is nothing new for me as a Black Jew.
The oppression that Jews face is not that different from what Black people encounter. A joke I routinely tell friends is that I wish the only similarity between both groups had been lactose intolerance; instead, we both know the feeling of hate and violence. This is why Black and Jewish Canadians need to work with each other to combat a hatred that doesn’t stop at the border.
There have been numerous instances where this potential relationship worked in the past. Through the labour movement, Jewish Canadians mobilized to help Hugh Burnett, a Black Second World War veteran, fight the unofficial Jim Crow laws in Dresden, Ontario. Noble v. Alley, a Jewish lawsuit, struck down discriminatory practices of not selling homes to Jews and Black people throughout Canada. The now defunct Canadian Jewish Congress had an ongoing dialogue with the Jamaican Canadian Association.
One can argue the relationship between Black people and Jews in Canada is not as complex and fraught as our American counterparts. Yet as white supremacy continues to fester both in the United States and here in Canada, why has there not been a concentrated effort on both sides to unite and fight this hate?
We no longer have the time to dither on building coalitions. White supremacists are not waiting until all minorities work out historical tensions and issues; they are pulling the trigger or throwing the bomb at us regardless.
As a Black Canadian Jew, the attack in Buffalo is not shocking. It has reinforced the belief that this white rage will not end by simply issuing letters of sadness and statements of condemnation. We must move into building a coalition of minorities who will lose the most with increased white supremacist violence. We must no longer depend on conferences and town halls on YouTube but get into the communities and work side by side, not on an individual level but an organizational level.
Many young Jewish Canadians are frustrated by our Jewish organizations, which seem all but unwilling to improve efforts of building working relationships with other minority groups to fight racism. Or, if these efforts occur, it is done so quietly that one could assume that they never took place.
We must also never forget that the white supremacist shooter could have targeted any synagogue in upstate New York if he wanted to. We have learned from recent events, such as a hostage-taking at a Texas synagogue, that we are not immune. This is all the more reason for a community-wide effort to build allyship. There must be the ability to work with those who want to accomplish something rather than give attention to those who seek division.
If this tragedy does not inspire a louder call to action from Jewish organizations in Canada, one must fear what the future will look like for Canadian Jews and Black people.
Tyler Samuels is the project coordinator for the Tel Aviv Institute, former engagement director of Jews of Colour Canada and the creator of BluntBlackJew.