I was invited to join folks from Black Lives Matter to meet some of the people who have been traumatized by the awful May 14 massacre of 10 Black people and the wounding of more in Buffalo, New York.
I joined Black Lives Matter leaders from all over the country, from Michigan, New York, Los Angeles, Texas, and Florida. My BLM colleagues asked me to put the racist attack on Black folks just buying groceries, in the context of white insanity and predatory capitalism.
I was humbled to join these warriors, to be called to witness the pain that so many are feeling, and humbled to hug a sister, her name is Frangrance, who was in the Tops Grocery store and ran out when she heard the shots. She ran out and then tried to run back in because she’d left her daughter behind.
Reverend Julian Cook, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church, opened his facility to allow people to share how violence has affected them, and Black Lives Matter Grass Roots was there to support them.
In addition to those connected to the Buffalo Massacre, I was blessed to have time to connect with Reverend Geneva Reed-Veal, Sandra Bland’s mom, who sports a T-Shirt that says “Sandy Speaks.” Devante Clark, whose brother Stephon Clark was shot dead in his grandmother’s backyard, was also there. So were Andrew and Deanna Joseph, whose son, Andrew Joseph, was executed by a police officer in Tampa, Florida, and Bianca Austin, a cousin of Breanna Taylor’s, killed by a rogue police officer in Louisville, Kentucky.
The pain in Macedonia was palpable. It was so real that you could hold it in your hands. When you went to hug people, they held on, seeking comfort. It was also that they had experiences to share. More, those from Buffalo understand that the killings at Tops were not just killings at the Tops Market. They were manifestations of vile racism and predatory capitalism that pervades Buffalo.
The Tops Market in the eastern part of Buffalo is the only grocery store there. Tops is one of the largest privately-owned companies in Buffalo, and they own more than 150 stores (according to Wikipedia) in upstate New York. They have started a fund to support victims of the massacre, but they have not owned their responsibility for the killings.
Why is there only one grocery store in the eastern part of Buffalo? Anybody who operates a monopoly can extract surplus value from its shoppers. The dozen or so people I talked to said that customer service at Tops was never great. Why would it be when the store has a monopoly?
Without stopping at the East Buffalo Tops and another one in Buffalo, I can guarantee that prices in the ‘hood are higher than they are in other parts of town. Tops management would likely say that costs are higher and profit margins lower. I’m not sure that that is the only reason.
Predatory capitalists see communities like east Buffalo as profit centers. They isolate Black shoppers and consolidate their market to maximize their profits. Why is there only one grocery store in an area that serves as many as 100,000 people, many poor, carless, or without options?
Why, in our predatory capitalist space, are there no competitors to provide alternative grocery services. Black lives matter, and Black money matters, too. So, all these corporate folks who are throwing dollars to assuage the pain of the massacres might make a difference by building more grocery stores in East Buffalo.
I felt the pain in Buffalo, the sidewalks spilling over with flowers, stuffed animals, signs, and more. The sidewalks are spilling over with pain.
There are so many ways that the Buffalo pain is the collective pain of African American people. Much of the pain is the absolute pain of the massacre, and there is also pain from the economic oppression that the people in east Buffalo are experiencing. A highway bisected a Black community so white folks could gain. Been there, done that, in too many cities. Segregating us makes it possible for racist filth to isolate us.
And yet, through the pain, we rise. Are there investors who would empower Black Buffalo? Relieve these survivors of their pain? No more thoughts and prayers. Action. Action. Action.
Dr. Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author and Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies at Cal State LA. Juliannmalveaux.com