Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: I'm Melissa Harris-Perry and you're listening to The Takeaway. Today we mark one year since a racist massacre in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. We're revisiting our coverage of that shooting from last year. Let's listen.
Pamela Pritchett: Ask yourself why it happened. Ask yourself, what kind of nation are we that this is allowed? Ask yourself why are guns on the street that can take so many people's lives in two minutes and three seconds. 10 people killed, 3 of them injured. Ask ourselves why our politicians refuse to believe in white supremacy.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: On Monday, residents of Buffalo, New York filled a local courtroom. Many of them were the family and loved ones of the 10 people who were murdered seven months ago on May 14th at the Tops Friendly Markets grocery store. Their names, Roberta Drury, Margus Morrison, Andre Mackniel, Aaron Salter, Celestine Chaney, Heyward Patterson, Katherine Massey, Pearl Young, Ruth Whitfield, Geraldine Talley. All of them were Black. The shooter who took their lives was enacting a white power fantasy of racial terror, and he live-streamed online.
The shooter faced 25 charges in New York State, including three counts of attempted murder for those who were wounded but survived, and 10 counts of first-degree murder. Each murder charge carries a sentence of life without parole, and he pled guilty to all of them. The shooter was also charged with one count of domestic terrorism motivated by hate, a state charge that went into effect in 2020. This is the first time it's been used. I'm joined now by Mark Talley, executive director of Agents for Advocacy, a nonprofit serving the Buffalo community. He found it in memory of his mother, Geraldine Talley, who was murdered in this shooting. Mark, thank you so much for being here.
Mark Talley: Thank you, Melissa. Glad to be on here talking to you.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: You just had your first Thanksgiving holiday without your mother. Can you tell us how you and your family are doing?
Mark Talley: I'm doing great. I really wasn't a holiday person at that. I was very introverted at that. My mother knew what type of son she had. She knew I really wasn't high when it comes to family get-togethers, big type of holiday events, things of that nature. For me, it was a relatively somewhat pretty normal Thanksgiving. Trust me, after all the things I was doing on Thanksgiving, delivering close to if not over 700 meals to people, it was another day as usual for me.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: I know that your mother from your early childhood on had raised you as a single mom and had high standards for you. You think she'd be proud that you spent your Thanksgiving in service in that way?
Mark Talley: Absolutely. She would have probably criticized me wearing sweatpants and no jacket in the cold weather,-
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: [laughs]
Mark Talley: -but I think she would definitely be happy with everything I did.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: Did you at least have a hat on, Mark?
Mark Talley: No, I hadn't need it.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: [chuckles]
Mark Talley: I got long hair, I can cover my ears.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: [chuckles] Tell me about the courtroom on Monday.
Mark Talley: A lot of people showed emotions there. I'm assuming the judge had to be thorough, so she kept reading the counts of everybody who died, what order in which they were killed, and where they were shot at. Most of the families at that time, they didn't know when and how their family member died that day. They just know their family member dead. Once the judge started reading off the counts, it definitely got emotional for the majority of people in the courtroom.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: The man who took your mother's life as well as all the other victims, did he face you? Did he express regret of any kind?
Mark Talley: Didn't face us. No regret. They had him surrounded by police. We were told that they did this because they were afraid that maybe somebody from our side, basically where a lot of people in attendance were sitting at, may try to jump over the rail and maybe attack him. They had him looking very clean-cut and innocent in appearance. The gentleman never once looked at us, showed any emotion or remorse.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: Does it feel like justice for you?
Mark Talley: That's in the eye of the beholder right there. Depends what you think is justice. To me, him going to jail, prison, and being sentenced, that's not justice for me. What may happen to him while he's in jail or prison, that'll feel more like justice for me.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: This is a white supremacist. He has said so. He was motivated by racial hate. Yours is not the first Black family nor likely the last to be affected by a racist murder. How does that hate affect how you understand what would constitute justice in this case?
Mark Talley: It really doesn't affect it at all. America was not necessarily founded, but America began as infant history, what? Around 1619. Since then, America has constantly showed a tendency in hatred, racism, having strong ties of xenophobia. You can just google right now on your phone racist attack, and you'll get hundreds of stories. It just so happens that ours made the worldwide news that day, unfortunately.
There's so many racist attacks that happen on a daily occurrence that doesn't get that attention, another eye, so this just feels like another day being a minority in America because we can shout and scream, but until real change gets done and America decides to recognize its past, present, and racial tendencies going forward in the future, we will constantly have Black people minority screaming about racism. Unless it's get done, it'll just be a waste of breath and us screaming.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: Mark Talley, thank you so much for taking the time for speaking with us, and thank you for your work. Mark is executive director of Agents for Advocacy and is serving in the Buffalo community. Mark, thanks again for joining us on The Takeaway.
Mark Talley: Absolutely. Thank you too.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: Welcome back to The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry. It's been a year since a racist gunman killed 10 people and wounded 3 others in a mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York. Less than two weeks after the mass shooting in Buffalo, we witnessed the horror of a massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where the slaughter of 21 children and teachers left a close-knit predominantly Latino community in mourning. As all Americans, and especially Black and Latino communities, grieved these losses, we hosted a conversation here at The Takeaway about mental health in times of crisis and the barriers to care for communities of color. Let's take a listen.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: Joining me now is Luis Zayas who is dean of the School of Social Work and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas at Austin. Dean Zayas, I appreciate you joining us.
Luis Zayas: Thanks for inviting me, Melissa.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: In Buffalo, there was a racial motivation to the crime. Does not seem to be the case in Uvalde, but this is a predominantly Latino community. Does that identity matter? Do Latino identities matter when it comes to the question of grief and loss in this moment?
Luis Zayas: Melissa, it matters to the families within the community that's been deeply affected, primarily because how we grieve, how we mourn is influenced by our culture and our background. In Uvalde, unfortunately, we had this awful tragedy. It wasn't seemingly a question of race, but rather just a troubled young man, and so the community will have its own way of mourning and grieving the loss of these children. Regardless of our race, ethnicity, religion, this is, as President Biden said, ripping a part of our soul out of us. The parents in the community, their community are really suffering.
Each and every one of those families will be mourning in their own way informed by their culture because we cannot think of Latinos as monolithic in the community of Uvalde, which involves primarily Mexican and Mexican Americans. We would expect to see other folks from Central America, for example, who might have integrated into the community whose children were perhaps in that school. Oftentimes those folks may be undocumented, so it's going to be hard for them to grieve the way the other families grieve.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: Why would undocumented status be associated with the capacity for public grieving of your child?
Luis Zayas: Undocumented people have to live in the shadows constantly. Even with US-born children or children who are also undocumented, they send their kids to school, but they do not have access to the benefits of much of our society, things like insurance and the protection of the law. To go to a federally-qualified health center, for example, or another clinic or hospital to get mental health services means that it exposes them. Consequently, their grieving will be different than the families who have been in Uvalde, say, for generations, who work for the town, for the local merchants, have their own businesses who are insured or perhaps receive Medicaid and other benefits.
The undocumented won't. Their grieving may be done much more privately. In Uvalde, we will probably see families who can come together and mourn in a public space with the television cameras and reporters all around them where many of the undocumented will have to grieve quietly at home, perhaps without grief counselors and other services. That's not to say that there won't be local social service agencies, nonprofit organizations that will step up and offer services, but it still means that the fear remains.
To some families, it may not matter, they've lost a child, so to lose the chance of pursuing the American dream here may all have gone down with that child and are willing to take the risk of deportation, but it is going to be very difficult for those families.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: I so appreciate the way you walked us through some of the reasons that an individual or a family might be reluctant to seek mental health care, grief counseling at this time. What constitutes culturally competent grief counseling or mental health services at a time like this?
Luis Zayas: What we mean by that, Melissa, is that the individuals, the grief counselors, must have some working knowledge at the very least of how a particular community mourns. Mourning grief, mourning loss is very imbued with culture all around it. How one culture mourns and grieves the loss of a loved one may differ from others, so in a community such as Uvalde, we may have the different forms. It may be different, for example, for an undocumented family of Indigenous background from, say, the highlands of Guatemala who may grieve differently based on their religion or their beliefs than we might do in a Western world.
For a grief counselor, that individual needs to at least have a working knowledge of that culture, even if it means learning it at the moment from the very family that they're working with. The approach of culturally competent mental healthcare really begins with a certain level of humility that I don't know your culture, I'm learning your culture, but I'm here to help you. That's vital so that the trust can be earned by that family knowing that someone deeply cares. May not really understand us, but is here with full empathy for us.
At the beginning of the show, you mentioned the workforce is largely a non-Hispanic, non-minority workforce in the mental health workforce, that is, and indeed that is the case. I'm also of the mind that it doesn't require someone of the same culture to serve us. Yes, it's important to be knowledgeable, sensitive to the culture, and work very hard at it. We face what we face, which is a largely non-Hispanic, non-minority mental health workforce but it's incumbent on them to learn how to work with these families. That's where this culturally competent service comes in.
We do trainings and it's part of every licensing exam, but when it comes down to the day-to-day practice, we don't know who we're going to face on any given day, that is, culturally. Just like the grief counselors in Atlanta may not have known exactly what the Asian community would need but they had to learn it, so too do we have to think about that. It doesn't stop counselors from providing good services. They must understand and enter it with cultural humility with a certain naivety and a respectfulness for the different ways that people mourn.
Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry: Luis Zayas is dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin. Dean Zayas, thank you so much for joining us.
Luis Zayas: You're very welcome, Melissa. Thank you very much.
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