Our Unconfronted History of Racial Terror and Bigotry Continues to Kill


Each day, EJI publishes a short account about our nation’s long history of racial injustice and the violence and terror of our past that continues to haunt our present.

Most Americans know very little about this history, which has not been taught in schools and instead has been avoided for decades. As a result, we are silent, ineffective, or indifferent to continuing acts of racial terror violence rooted in ideologies of white supremacy and racist narratives that have stoked fear and anger in America for over a century.

This weekend, a white man drove 200 miles to a historic Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, and shot 13 people in a grocery store, 11 of whom were Black, while victims were innocently seeking to buy food for their families.

The 10 people killed are tragic, new victims of the under-regulated access to guns and weapons of war in the U.S. still sanctioned by our government. The people killed and injured in Buffalo are also victims of the growing influence of white nationalism and other bigoted ideologies that spread on social media and are frequently endorsed or supported by right-wing political pundits.

This weekend’s violence is also a result of our collective failure to effectively address our history of racial terror and injustice.

In Reconstruction in America, EJI documents how bigotry and belief in white supremacy blocked the enforcement of rights guaranteed to recently emancipated Black people and caused death and violence for generations of Black Americans.

Our justice system and elected officials allowed mob violence, lawlessness, and legally sanctioned racial hierarchy to proliferate, killing thousands and marginalizing millions—including six million Black people forced to flee the American South. EJI has documented nearly 2,000 lynchings that took place during Reconstruction alone.

This weekend’s violence cannot be fully understood without a more detailed examination of our history, which includes decades of white violence directed at Black people and a century of codified racial subordination in service of white supremacy.

Because this history is often overlooked and not well understood, racially motivated violence and terror continues to be used to advance white supremacy in America, with tragic and devastating consequences.

From Charleston, South Carolina, to El Paso, Texas, to Jeffersontown, Kentucky, to Atlanta, Georgia, and dozens of other communities across the country, the violent manifestation of our unconfronted history of racial injustice is painfully evident.

EJI believes we must educate ourselves about the poisonous legacy of racial injustice in America, actively address the way it continues to fuel bigotry and violence, and commit to a new era of truth and justice.

Without a collective effort to reckon with our history, the tragedy of racially motivated violence will needlessly claim more lives and undermine the aspirations of so many who simply want to live peacefully and securely.