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Leonard Greene is a columnist for the New York Daily News.
In the aftermath of a hate-filled anti-Black attack in Buffalo, there are plenty of people saying that could have been someone from their family inside the store that day.
Only, they’re not talking about the grandmother who was supposed to see a show that night with her daughter, or the church deacon who took neighbors to the supermarket, or the retired police lieutenant who died trying to protect grocery store shoppers.
They’re talking about the shooter. They’re talking about the teenager under the headline “Pure Evil.”
That could have been their child. Your child.
Someone watching the news right now, footage from a funeral of one of the 10 people killed, has a son in the basement writing a racist manifesto.
He won’t read a book, or write a decent composition for class, but he’s in his room hard at work on a treatise about how much he hates Black people.
Oh, and Jews.
You can’t get him to take out the trash, or mow the lawn, or pick his little sister up from school at 3 o’clock, but he wouldn’t think twice about getting in the car, filling the tank at $4.69 a gallon and driving 200 miles to shoot and kill Black people who never did a thing to him.
I don’t want to drive 200 miles to see people I like.
But that’s what Payton Gendron did. On May 14, this purely evil, hate-filled 18-year-old coward found the neighborhood closest to him with the highest concentration of black people, scoped it out, then returned to launch a premeditated killing spree using a modified assault rifle with the N-word scrawled on the barrel and the words “Here’s your reparations” painted on the butt.
Then he had the nerve to mock the people he left alive by putting the rifle to his neck and pretending he would shoot himself, only to let the most restrained cops ever arrest him without so much as a scratch.
It’s a wonder they didn’t take him to Starbucks.
Being white has its privileges.
That could be your son on the news if you bought him a rifle instead of a PlayStation or a bike when he turned 16. He’s barely old enough to vote or buy cigarettes, can’t get an alcoholic beverage without a fake ID, but he can buy a deadly weapon without raising a red flag.
That could be your son strapping on the body armor if you spent eight years seething because a Black man was in the White House, and you railed incessantly about taking the country back.
You didn’t think he was listening or even cared about politics, but the truth is that no 18-year-old can build up that much racism and resentment on his own just by watching Fox News and hanging out on the internet.
The Buffalo shootings brought back painful memories for Nelba Marquez-Greene, whose 6-year-old daughter, Ana Grace, was killed in Newtown, Connecticut, during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012.
She said parents have a moral obligation to teach their kids tolerance.
“It fills me with rage as a mother that someone could be out there not having that same conversation with their child,” Márquez-Greene told CBS News. “How dare we as parents encourage or allow our kids to pick up these hateful messages that will then cause what we saw, the events of this weekend.”
What kind of punk wears body armor to go shoot at grandmothers? What kind of miscreant decorates the murder weapon with racist rantings? What kind of twisted demon straps a camera to his head and livestreams the carnage?
A purely evil one, that’s who. And there are plenty more where he came from.