How comfort and complacency must change following the mass shooting in Buffalo

Experts discuss how white comfort is linked to institutional comfort, and how institutional comfort works to benefit white Americans.

On Saturday, an 18-year-old gunman killed 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. The white shooter drove two hours to target the predominantly Black neighborhood, with the intent to kill as many Black people as possible. Prior to the shooting, he wrote a 180-page document that cited the “great replacement” conspiracy theory as the basis for his attack.

“Until white people start viewing what happened on that side of town as … something to care about because the people on the other side of town are human beings, we will continue to keep having these same conversations.” – Rashawn Ray, senior fellow, Brookings Institution

Listen: The role of white comfort plays in systemic racism.




Rashawn Ray is a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He says claims, from both the media and political pundits, that the United States of America is “way better than this,” do not accurately align with the country’s history.

“Attacks on Black Americans have existed on indigenous land since before anyone was even called an ‘American,’” says Ray.

Karen Dumas is a communications strategist and columnist for The Detroit News. Dumas says this kind of trauma has become too normalized, and the nation’s response to these racist tragedies needs to move in another direction.

“We start talking about police reform, we start talking about gun legislation, we start talking about policy, but what we’re not talking about is practice and the application of those things,” says Dumas.

Greg Bowens is a politics and communications consultant, and columnist with Deadline Detroit. He believes part of the problem is that we are not good at having honest conversations in our personal lives.

“I do believe that if we want to make people uncomfortable, if we want to make white people uncomfortable, then we need to be willing to be uncomfortable as well,” says Bowens.

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