Buffalo, New York: What Can We Do?
We all know what happened in Buffalo, New York. 18-year-old Payton Gendron put on body armor, got a gun, drove up to Buffalo, New York, and committed mass murder in a predominantly black grocery store where he shot and killed ten people, livestreaming the event on a site called Twitch. The website cut off the feed after two minutes, but prior to that, you could have sat in your chair and watched black people being killed in real time right before your eyes. After the shooting, Payton was taken into custody by the police; he will presumably spend the rest of his life in prison without parole. However, that doesn’t bring the dead back. The question arises, what is being done to stop this? What can we do? The problem I have with our political leaders is that they’re not thinking creatively; they’re just saying the same things over and over again about gun control, background checks, and shutting down websites of hate. This is all necessary and needs to be done, but that’s not enough; we’re not thinking outside the box, we’re not thinking what else can we do to stop this sort of violence. We need to be looking for better solutions and we need to provide alternatives to hate.
Here’s one thing I think might help. We have something called self-determination for developmentally disabled people where we use person-centered planning, an approach by which a person’s strengths are recognized rather than their weaknesses. Instead of listing things that are wrong with a person and highlighting their deficits, we see what strengths they possess and build upon those. We need to build person-centered plans that put the individual in charge and get teams together to work out the right plan for that individual. I think something like that can be used for more than just developmentally disabled people. We could use that for many other things like deflecting people from violence, for example, the 15-year-old girl who stabbed 16-year-old Kayla Green to death. A gang of girls were bullying kids at school and Kayla was one of them because she was bright, popular, and successful. Unfortunately, the school didn’t do anything about the bullying and Kayla ended up being killed by the gang. It strikes me that the school could’ve sat down with those girls and offered them a better alternative to bullying and hatred. The 15-year-old who killed Kayla must’ve had some kind of strength, something she was good at that could’ve built on, and the school could’ve had a team to help develop her strengths. We need to turn these people into winners so they don’t go down the rabbit hole of hate, racism, and mass murder. There was also a better future for 18-year-old Payton who hung out on hate websites for two years, got a gun and body armor, and went to that grocery store and killed all those people. He had to have a better future than that. He wasn’t a dummy. We could’ve built on some of his strengths or even arranged for him to go on outings with black people so he could have realized that the negative things he was being told about black people weren’t true and that they instead were good, honest, caring citizens.
We need self-determination strategies like person center planning, presuming competence, and building on strengths instead of weaknesses. These things could be used to help divert crazy kids away from violence. It’s something worth trying and I think schools should have programs like these to help people, letting them know it offers a better life than hate and violence. We need to stop people from going down the delusional pathway of hate, racism, and contempt, and we need to teach them that inclusion and diversity are better ways to go. We need to start thinking outside of the box. I’m not saying gun control isn’t necessary, I’m not saying we need to get rid of background checks, I’m not saying we need to put limits on people who are running around promoting racism, I’m saying we have to go beyond that. Self-determination could really help people. Let’s find out what their strengths are and what they’re good at. If we do that, we can tell them that working on those strengths will offer them a better future than sitting in front of a computer all day that injects hate into them until they explode and kill people. Gun control is good, but it’s going to take a lot more than that to stop this kind of madness. Even if we do take away guns, human time bombs are still going to be out there ticking away and one day they’re going to blow. We need to have interventions to help them. I also think we need to educate the mental health system about this. Most people don’t know what self-determination is, even professionals in the field, and if you don’t know what it is, how are you supposed to use it?
Instead of calling out evil, we should ask shooters why they hate so much. Instead of condemning them, we need to be asking them elementary questions like, “What good does hate do for you? Does it make you feel strong, tough, and powerful?” We need to then show them that there are much better way to be winners and deal with people than going down the rabbit hole of hate. That 18-year-old who shot those people in the grocery store is going to spend the rest of his life in prison without possibility for parole. What kind of a future is that? We shouldn’t just be tolerating evil, we have to handle it by the root. Hate is not the way to go; there are better roads than that.