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America is locked in a battle, and the haters must lose

Mourners lighted candles in honor of the Tops supermarket shooting victims in Buffalo.Libby March/For The Washington Post

Boston’s gang members are tracked in a database, but where is the database, here or anywhere, for the Payton Gendrons of the world?

Everyone is still reeling from the racist mass killing in Buffalo this weekend that claimed the lives of 10 people who had done nothing more provocative than grocery shop while Black.

The narrative of these crimes is so familiar now: the easy access to guns, the warning signs ignored, the open hatred that drew little response until it metastasized into deadly action.

Investigators now say Gendron, the alleged perpetrator of this crime, spent months planning it.

Indeed, there is a lengthy online trail documenting his plans and his motives. He had initially hoped to conduct his massacre on March 15, to coincide with the third anniversary of a massacre of Muslims at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. He is believed to be the author of posts celebrating other murderous racist acts, including an attack in El Paso in 2019.

Gendron was the subject of a psychiatric evaluation last year after saying he wanted to commit a murder-suicide at his high school.

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New York has a “red flag” law that purportedly keeps people like him, who are clear risks to the community, from gaining access to firearms.

Some flag, some law. After basically saying, ”I was just kidding,” he was able to get all the lethal weapons it took to rip the heart out of a community, and place an entire nation on edge.

It is customary, after horrible incidents like this for presidents to utter words of reassurance, to rally the nation’s conscience, like President Barack Obama famously did after the mass shooting at Charleston’s Mother Emanuel Church in 2015.

In Buffalo Tuesday, President Biden tried his best to speak to the better angels of our nature.

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He called on Americans to reject the lunatic notion that white people face “replacement” by people of color. It’s a crazy idea that has united what many of us once considered the lunatic fringe.

Biden didn’t pull any punches in calling it a lie, and referred to what took place Saturday as domestic terrorism.

“I call on all Americans to reject the lie, and I condemn those who spread the lie for power, political gain, and for profit,” Biden said.

Biden might well have been thinking of some of the leaders of the Republican Party — who have been silent about their past talk of “replacement theory” — as well as their propaganda partners, Fox News.

Racial hatred in America is as old as America, older in fact. But in the Trump era that cruel animus has gained more momentum than it’s had since the fall of Jim Crow decades ago.

That has given license to haters across the land.

Shannon Liss-Riordan — Boston lawyer and current candidate for Massachusetts attorney general — was in Rome, Ga., Tuesday with her newest clients. They are a group of four Black high school students who are suing their school district after being suspended for protesting Confederate flag displays and other incidents of overt racism.

According to the complaint filed in federal court Tuesday, the school district openly allows the waving of Confederate flags. It did nothing when a group of students held a public reenactment last year of the killing of George Floyd.

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But when Black students demanded justice, they faced retribution, Liss-Riordan said.

“The shooter in Buffalo this weekend was 18, and went to a school,” Liss-Riordan pointed out. “Schools are teaching kids what’s OK, and what’s not OK. When schools are allowing kids to act this way and get away with it, that teaches a lesson, and we saw that this weekend in Buffalo.”

Tragedies like the one that occurred in Buffalo are routinely described as shocking. But I wonder if shock is the right response.

The killings in Charleston were shocking. The shootings at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh were shocking.

But we should all be beyond shock by now. The lie that Biden referred to is being openly peddled in our faces every night on cable television, with results that are both deadly and plain to see.

Simply rejecting it isn’t enough. This country will be defined by whether the haters are allowed to win.

Correction: An earlier version of this column misidentified the synagogue in Pittsburgh where the 2018 mass shooting took place.


Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at adrian.walker@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Adrian_Walker.