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Experts look at 'great replacement theory' as motivation behind Buffalo mass shooting

The Tops supermarket where the shooting in Buffalo took place [NPR]
The Tops supermarket where the shooting in Buffalo took place [NPR]

Last Saturday, a White, 18-year-old gunman, opened fire at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, using a high-powered assault weapon.

He is responsible for the deaths of 10 people - ages 32, to 86, all of them Black. He shot and injured three others.

While mass shootings in this country are already far too common, the incident in Buffalo is also being seen as another example of a racially motivated attack.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Monday, "This was a targeted attack, a hate crime, and an act of racially motivated violent extremism."

The accused shooter has also been found responsible for posting a litany of hateful and racist online rants, including a lengthy screed he published just before last Saturday's killings.

One of the prominent conspiracy theories in the manifesto is the concept of a 'great replacement' happening in America.

Most simply put, he and others subscribe to the baseless idea that nonwhite individuals are being brought into the US, and to other Western countries, to "replace" white voters, to achieve a political agenda.

White supremacists believe the influx of people of color will lead to the extinction of the white race.

This racist theory has circulated in fringe white supremacist populations for decades, but has in recent years gained traction in national politics, and through certain media outlets. 

Today, we look at the massacre in Buffalo, the spread of the great replacement theory, and just how dangerous language like that theory is including its playing out in some political contests, right here in Ohio.

We hear from social scientists, media analysists, hate crime experts, and a reporter from Buffalo, New York.  

- Dave Debo, News Director, WBFO Buffalo Public Radio

- James Pasch, Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League

- Kayla Griffin, Vice President, NAACP of Greater Cleveland

- Dexter Voisin, Dean, Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve University

- Danielle Sarver Coombs, Professor at the School of Media and Journalism, Kent State University

Drew Maziasz is a coordinating producer for the "Sound of Ideas" and also serves as the show’s technical producer.