The high concentration of black residents on Buffalo’s east side — which the suspect in Saturday’s mass shooting said was his target in the area — is a direct result of decades of segregation and systemic racism, according to decades of research.
A University of Michigan analysis based on data from the 2010 census found that the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metro area was the sixth most segregated country in the country when ranked specifically by the distribution of black and white inhabitants.
Segregation is also the main reason why efforts to bring Buffalo an economic revival have yielded little for black residents, experts say. A 2021 University at Buffalo report found that living conditions for black city residents in terms of health, housing, income and education had improved little, and in some cases had declined over the past 30 years.
India B. Walton, a nurse and community activist who nearly overthrew the four-year-old Democratic mayor of Buffalo last year, called the city “separated by design,” while responding to the shooting on Twitter.
“Our government cannot prevent things that actually cause them,” she wrote†
Indeed, like many major U.S. cities, Buffalo bears a telltale scar of long-term segregation, a highway built in the 1950s and 1960s that ran directly through a black neighborhood, bisecting communities and facilitating economic development for decades to come. suffocated.
That highway, the Kensington Expressway, is about two blocks from the Tops supermarket, where at least ten people were shot and killed on Saturday. (Also near the scene of the shooting is City Honors High School, a magnetic high school regularly ranked as one of the best in the country that has struggled to improve its disproportionately low black enrollment.)
The devastation caused by the construction of the Kensington Expressway included the destruction of Humboldt Parkway, a tree-lined public space designed by legendary architect Frederick Law Olmsted. It has been described as the “backbone” of the emerging middle-class black neighborhood at the time.
Freeway pollution, which gives residents of mostly white suburbs easy access to the city center, has caused long-term health damage to those living nearby. The road also cut off East Side black residents from key community institutions such as banks and supermarkets, according to a 2018 report from the Partnership for the Public Good.
The existence of the Tops supermarket was a hard-fought victory for East Siders. The neighborhood is a food desert, and residents had campaigned for a store like Tops for more than a decade, according to The Buffalo News, when it finally opened in 2003.
The lack of options helped make Tops a neighborhood establishment. Many families were there shopping for their Sunday dinners when the shooting began. The suspected gunman said in his manifesto that, in addition to targeting the area for his black population, he researched the days and times when Tops was busy.
The Buffalo Community Fridge network, a mutual aid group that stocks community refrigerators with fresh produce and prepared meals for neighbors — including one less than half a mile from Tops — said it received many donations Saturday, following its appeal to Support for residents affected by the shooting was shared on social media. The group organizes volunteers to buy and distribute food in the area on Sundays.
William K. Rashbaum and Alexandra E. Petri reporting contributed.