On Saturday, May 14th an 18-year-old White man drove over 200 miles

to Buffalo, New York where he killed 10 people and wounded 3 others in a racially motivated shooting at Tops grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood with the express purpose of killing as many Black people as he could.

Eleven of the 13 people that were shot are Black. Law enforcement officials are reviewing an 180-page document written by the gunman that’s filled with pages of antisemitic and racist memes citing the Great [White]Replacement Theory — a White nationalist fringe conspiracy theory pushed by FOX News host Tucker Carlson that’s made its way into the mainstream Republican Party. This is an entirely fabricated claim that the White race is being systematically replaced and losing economical, political and cultural influence to immigrants and nonwhites.

In December 2021, a poll conducted by the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center found that nearly half of Republicans agree to some extent that there’s a deliberate intent to replace native-born Americans with immigrants. In this context, they’re not referring to Indigenous people.

The poll also found that 1 in 5 agreed that the election system discriminated against Whites, and that 3 in 10 agreed with the idea that there was an intentional replacement occurring and native-born Americans were losing influence.

This insidious conspiracy theory has been pushed by Utah’s current District 4 Congressman Burgess Owens since at least 2018.

In his book, Why I Stand (2018), Owens wrote:

This is just one of many documented cases of Owens using conspiratory anti-immigrant language that fueled this hate crime. It doesn’t stop there.

In December 2021, Representative Owens appeared at AmericaFest, a TurningPoint USA event in Phoenix, Arizona headlined by Tucker Carlson. The event also featured Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old man found Not-Guilty of charges for his role in the shooting that killed two men and wounded a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Representative Owens did not mince words in describing how ‘real men’ solve problems. “Real men,” said Owens, “…do not get on their knees and beg for mercy for the wife and kids. He’s prepared himself. Just like he knows how to use an iPhone he knows how to use a gun, and he shows up and takes care of business.”

Was 18-year-old Peyton Gendron ‘taking care of business’ when he showed up at Tops grocery store, shot and killed 77-year-old Pearl Young, 86-year-old Ruth Whitfield, 72-year-old Katherine Massey, 55-year-old retired Buffalo Police Officer Aaron Slater Jr, 32-year-old Robert Drury, along with five others? These were grandmothers, mothers, and even a father who’d stopped to buy a birthday cake for his 3-year-old son. This could have been any one of us.

With individuals such as Carlson and Owens in positions of influence and leadership repeating lies and urging violent action to a large segment of the population, it was never a matter of If, but When this type of shooting would occur.

It’s unfortunate that so few people make the connection that the divisive and inflammatory rhetoric spewed by elected officials from Congress to our school boards could and would lead to an event like what happened this weekend in Buffalo. But, many of us, including myself, DID see this coming and have been outspoken about the danger that those that continued to push disinformation about critical race theory and lies about election fraud were creating for communities of color.

For instance, in an unpublished op-ed submitted to the Deseret News in September 2021, I called out Representative Owens for his complicity in the dissemination of disinformation about critical race theory that “serves the purpose of heightening racial anxiety that he exploits through anti-Black politics.” The gunman in Saturday’s shooting wrote in his document that critical race theory is part of a Jewish plot, and used that as a reason to justify killing Jews.

Owens’ ascension in politics is owed entirely to his personal story of being raised during Jim Crow.

 

 It’s a story he tells every chance he gets. So much so, that he’s become the ‘point man’ for Congressional Republicans on matters of race. Yet, after a premeditated murderous rampage targeting the Black community, Burgess Owens is conspicuously silent. Instead of sending even the obligatory (though empty) thoughts and prayers for the people of Buffalo, he spent the day pushing a far right-wing Black Senatorial candidate in Pennsylvania who has a history of making antisemetic, anti-Black, and homophobic statements. These positions should have immediately disqualified her from public service, rather than propel her candidacy in today’s Republican Party.

Although this senatorial candidate, who is Black, resides in the border state of Pennsylvania, she too has failed to call out the act of violence perpetrated against the Black community that she and Owens have claimed is being bamboozled by the Democratic Party.

Enough is enough. It’s beyond time to call out and hold accountable those who participate in the propagation of disinformation about replacement theory, critical race theory, and election fraud that leads to Americans literally picking up a gun to shoot and kill their neighbors. No one should be more uniquely empathetic to the dangers of disinformation than the citizens of Utah.

On October 27, 1838, Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs issued an executive order that became known as the ‘Extermination Order,’ that led to the death of 17 unarmed men and boys. This unfounded attack on Mormons was based upon disinformation and an unwarranted perception by the citizens of Missouri for their Latter-day Saint neighbors. The persecution of Mormons led to them fleeing the state of Missouri and heading west into new territory that became the state of Utah.

The senseless murder of ten people by a man who chose to kill them because they were Black was not a lesson-learned for Representative Owens about the dangers of continuing to spread disinformation and anti-Black rhetoric that led to this massacre, as he sent yet another irresponsible tweet this morning about a study performed by an organization named Legal Insurrection Foundation. The study aimed to call out medical schools that required Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training, which ٜright-wing propagandists and conspiracy theorists have incorrectly asserted was CRT. It is worth noting that ‘INSURRECTION’ is defined as a violent uprising against an authority or government. Just what is Burgess Owens advocating for here?

Disinformation kills.

Yet, Owens continues to endanger the lives of Black people and immigrants in his district and around the country and he does not care. We have a moral obligation to call Representative Owens out and hold him accountable before more people are killed.

I stand with the people of Buffalo and all Americans by declaring hate has no place here.