Zeneta Everhart, mother of Buffalo shooting victim, recounts violence in Congress, racism personifies America

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The mother of a man who was among those shot dead in last month’s mass shooting at a Buffalo grocery store offered powerful testimony before Congress on Wednesday about how ‘America is inherently violent’ and warned lawmakers who oppose tougher gun laws after a series of shootings across the country. .

Zeneta Everhart, the mother of 21-year-old Zaire Goodman, who was injured but survived the racially charged attack on Tops supermarket on May 14, testified before the House Oversight Committee about how the Buffalo massacre and the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Tex., and Tulsa reflected what the United States has been in terms of gun violence. She spoke about her son’s injuries and invited lawmakers to come to her home to see the damage up close if they didn’t act on gun laws.

“To lawmakers who feel we don’t need tougher gun laws, let me paint a picture: my son Zaire has a hole in the right side of his neck, two in his back, and another in the left leg caused by an explosive bullet from an AR-15,” said Everhart, who paused to describe her son’s injuries. “As I clean his wounds, I can feel pieces of that bullet in his back. Shrapnel will remain inside his body for the rest of his life. Now I want you to imagine this exact scenario for one of your children.

She added, “This shouldn’t be your story or mine.”

Everhart chastised lawmakers who have opposed common-sense gun laws because of their personal feelings or beliefs.

“As an elected official, it is your duty to draft legislation that protects Zaire and all the children and citizens of this country,” she said. “You are elected because you were chosen and trusted to protect us. But let me tell you here today, I don’t feel protected.

Everhart, who is black, also testified that racism and violence were linked – “My ancestors brought to America through the slave trade were America’s first currency” – and told lawmakers that “the America is inherently violent.”

“This is who we are as a nation,” said Everhart, director of diversity and inclusion for New York State Senator Timothy M. Kennedy (D). “I continually hear after every mass shooting that this is not who we are as Americans and as a nation. Listen to me clearly: this is exactly who we are.”

Everhart is among the group of survivors and family members of victims of the Buffalo and Uvalde mass shootings testifying Wednesday about gun violence in America. The parents of a 10-year-old student killed at Robb Elementary School demanded that lawmakers ban military-style assault rifles like the one used at Uvalde, while 11-year-old Miah Cerrillo described in a pre-recorded video how she had smeared her best friend’s rifle. blood on herself and played dead as a gunman rampaged through her classroom last month.

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Senators are calling for patience amid talks on a legislative package that could include the first major federal gun restrictions in three decades, as well as school safety and mental health provisions. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) said his chamber would vote “in the near future,” while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) , noted that it was “far too early” to predict. how many Republicans might eventually arrive. The top Democratic negotiator, Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.), was upbeat Tuesday after briefing President Biden on the talks.

“Every day we get closer to a deal, not further,” Murphy said.

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The national debate over tougher gun laws continues days after Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old accused in connection to the Buffalo killings, was charged with 25 counts, including domestic terrorism and murder as a hate crime. Authorities say the suspected white supremacist targeted the Tops supermarket in the predominantly black neighborhood because of his hatred for minorities, fueled by an obsession with conspiracy theories proliferating on the internet.

On June 8, gun violence witnesses, family members and others testified before Congress about mass shootings, including those in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo. (Video: Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

Gendron, who police say traveled three hours from his home in Conklin, NY, to target black people with his Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, allegedly posted a screed online revealing a paranoid obsession with a racist conspiracy theory claiming that white Americans are intentionally replaced by non-white immigrants.

If convicted of hate-motivated domestic terrorism, Gendron faces an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole. Gendron pleaded not guilty.

Goodman, then 20, was working at Tops when Gendron killed 10 people at the store last month, Everhart said CNN. His mother said her son called her from the parking lot and told her he had been shot while helping a woman with groceries.

During its almost nine minutes testimony On Wednesday, Everhart reminded lawmakers how Gendron received a shotgun as a gift when he was 16.

“The 18-year-old terrorist who burst into my community armed with an AR-15, killing 10 people and injuring three others, received a shotgun from his parents on his 16th birthday. For 16-year-olds from Zaire , I bought him some video games, headphones, a pizza and a cake, “she says. “We are not the same.

Everhart thanked the many people who sent her son and family support nearly a month after the mass shooting. But she stressed that thoughts and prayers could only go so far without action from lawmakers.

“I also tell you today, with my heart full of the outpouring of love you have given us all so freely, your thoughts and prayers are not enough,” she said. “We need you to be with us in the days, weeks, months and years to come, and be ready to go to work and help us create the change this country desperately needs.”

Everhart argued that part of the change should be made in the classroom and called for the inclusion of African American history in the curriculum of the American education system.

“We cannot continue to whitewash education and create generations of children to believe that one race of people is better than the other,” she said. “Our differences should make us curious, not angry.”

Everhart’s testimony appeared to anger Republicans on the House Oversight Panel as she began to discuss her belief that America was created on the shoulders of hate and white supremacy that continues to target the black community.

As Everhart discussed education and the need to teach black history, which Republicans have called “critical race theory” — an academic construct examining the consequences of systemic racism that is not taught in K-12 classrooms — Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) leaned back in his chair before rolling his eyes. Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) said, “Oh my God.”

Near the end of her testimony, Everhart quoted author Charles M. Blow from her 2021 book, “The devil you know: A Black Power Manifesto.” Everhart testified that the goal was “not to impose a new racial hierarchy but to suppress an existing one”.

“After centuries of waiting for white majorities to overthrow white supremacy, because it is, to me, the onus is on black people to do it themselves,” Everhart said at the end of his testimony. “And I stand ready.”

She then made a belated birthday wish to her son, who just turned 21.

“Zaire is for you, kid,” Everhart said. “Happy birthday.”

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