The son of an 86-year-old woman who was among the 10 people killed in a domestic terrorism attack in Buffalo last month urged lawmakers to take action this week, asking them to imagine their own mothers during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Gary Whitfield Jr., whose mother Ruth Whitfield was killed in the racist attack, provided the opening statement at Tuesday’s hearing. He spoke on behalf of other victims and their families at the hearing, which—per a report from the Associated Press—centered on the escalating threat of white supremacy. As previously reported, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at Ruth’s funeral in May.
“She was literally and figuratively the heartbeat of my family, and my father’s soulmate, for 68 years,” Gary said Tuesday. “She was the person who held us together, probably just like your mothers did for your families. What I loved most about her was the way she loved her family unconditionally, sacrificing everything for us. She visited my father at the nursing home where he’s lived for the past eight years almost every day, including on the day she was murdered.”
Deeper into his remarks, Gary—who previously served as the commissioner of the Buffalo Fire Department—noted that he and other victims’ families were not only hurt but “angry” due to the preventable nature of the attack.
“Do you expect us to continue to just forgive and forget over and over again?” he said. “And what are you doing? You’re elected to protect us, to protect our way of life. I ask every one of you to imagine the faces of your mothers as you look at mine and ask yourself, is there nothing that we can do? Is there nothing that you personally are willing to do to stop the cancer of white supremacy and the domestic terrorism it inspires?”
If there isn’t, Gary advised, then lawmakers should step aside to make room for those who will take action.
“The urgency of this moment demands no less,” he said. “My mother’s life mattered.”