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What the Racist Buffalo Massacre Stole From a Family


Wayne’s family already knew about the physical threat of racism.

In Philadelphia, Mississippi, where a relative lived on his father’s side decades ago, members of the Ku Klux Klan were known to walk past his home in balaclavas, according to family tradition. The parent often kept a shotgun in his lap while sitting on his porch.

Generations later, Celestine was the victim of a similar hatred.

The Tops massacre was quite atrocious. The persistence of racism made the days that followed all the more exhausting.

Wayne was not satisfied with the responses offered by the country. The stagnation of gun control efforts frustrated him, as well as the idea that such killings are an inevitable facet of American life. The suggestion that the pandemic helped foment the violence seemed cruel, when her family had suffered so deeply over the past two years.

Wayne’s grandmother was hospitalized after contracting the coronavirus and in September 2020, she passed away. When Celestine was busy, his grandmother took over to help raise him.

Neither was there anymore.

In the midst of funeral preparations, Wayne’s eyes sometimes focused on no particular place, and his mind wandered. Her children were worried. How would he manage when his house was empty? When he had more time to dwell on speculations, whether things would have been different if he had woken up earlier that Saturday and visited her.

All that hindsight was for later.

Wayne Jr., 27, stopped by a living room to get a pop of color in his twists. He looked red for his sisters; it was supposed to be pink. Women took trips to get their nails done, all in rosy hues. And Wayne sparred for his three sons to be outfitted for their funeral attire in black suit jackets, white shirts and pink ties.

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