Expert Advisory

University of Michigan experts are available to comment on the racially motivated massacre at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

Celeste Watkins-Hayes is the associate dean for academic affairs and founding director of the Center for Racial Justice at the Ford School of Public Policy. She is an internationally recognized scholar whose research is at the intersection of inequality, public policy and institutions, with a special focus on urban poverty and race, class and gender studies.

“What happened in Buffalo is an unspeakably devastating—albeit unsurprising—tragedy fueled by white supremacist ideologies,” she said. “These ideologies are not new; rather, they have festered and evolved over time to perpetuate the dangerous idea that certain racial and ethnic groups are threatening and should therefore be eradicated.

“Ideas like these are powerful but become dangerous under ineffectual policies that enable violent action. What is most clearly needed now is a full acknowledgment of the ways in which racism is a public health crisis, and one that demands our attention, resources and better policies.

“Whether we are talking about the need for better policies around social media or gun safety, we must think about how our tools and technologies can easily be warped and exploited toward violent ends that threaten and end lives.”


Javed Ali, associate professor of practice at the Ford School of Public Policy, is a former senior U.S. government counterterrorism official.

“The horrific attack in Buffalo over the weekend underscores the persistent and enduring threat of white supremacy in the United States,” he said. “While the shooter was captured on scene by law enforcement, his use of automatic weapons and social media platforms to share his ideological motivations is consistent with other mass-casualty attacks—stretching back to Anders Brevik in Norway in July 2011, Brentan Tarrant in New Zealand in March 2019, and Patrick Crusius in El Paso, Texas, in August 2019.

“Another commonality in all these attacks is the use of anti-immigrant and racist diatribes found in the broader white supremacist movement, including those who believe in the ‘great replacement’ theory and how white and European civilizations are under siege. While the investigation into the attack is in its early stages, already the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York stated the case will likely be considered a hate crime and an act of domestic violent extremism.”


Marc Zimmerman is co-director of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, professor of health behavior and health education at the School of Public Health, and professor of psychology at the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. His research shows that engaging local residents in community greening efforts can lead to a substantial reduction in firearm violence, and that empowering adolescents to become change agents for community improvement projects improves their positive behaviors and reduces aggression and violence.

“The events this weekend demonstrate the complexity of firearm violence and show the urgent need to address this epidemic with multifaceted evidence-based solutions,” he said. “Although these mass shooting events are horrific, we should not forget about the victims of other forms of firearm-related injury such as suicide, intimate partner violence and community violence, which are occurring every day.

“Unfortunately, mass shooting events like we experienced this weekend are a reminder that we need to address the firearm violence epidemic just as we do to cure disease or reduce injury, apply scientific methods and conduct research to establish data driven evidence-based solutions.”


Patrick Carter is co-director of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, associate professor of emergency medicine at the Medical School, and associate professor of health behavior and health education at the School of Public Health. His research focuses on firearm injury prevention across the spectrum of research, from understanding the epidemiology of the problem to prevention-focused solutions for at-risk individuals and communities.

“The incidents of the past weekend continue to demonstrate the urgent need that exists to address this complex public health issue using an array of multidisciplinary data driven solutions that collectively can work to prevent and reduce the tragic number of firearm deaths and injuries that occur annually,” he said.


Riana Anderson, assistant professor of health behavior and health education at the School of Public Health, studies racial discrimination and how socialization in Black families helps reduce racial stress and trauma and improve psychological well-being and family functioning. She can comment on the impact that violence and other stressors have on Black communities.


Enrique Neblett is a professor of health behavior and health education at the School of Public Health and associate director of the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center. He’s a leading scholar in the area of racism and health, with a particular focus on understanding how racism-related stress influences the mental and physical health of young African Americans.


Hsing-Fang Hsieh is an assistant research scientist in health behavior and health education at the School of Public Health. Her research centers on understanding disparities in firearm injury and chronic conditions that result from racism and violence exposure. She’s part of the National Center for School Safety, focused on improving school safety and preventing school violence, and one of the authors of a recent study examining racism and firearm-related risks among Asian Americans during the pandemic.

“Every time such tragic events of racially motivated violence and shooting happen, it is added trauma to the existing wounds suffered by our communities of color,” she said. “The effect is also beyond the direct victimization and the loss of loved ones. We have seen consistent evidence that exposure to violence and racism has both short-term and long-term effects on health.

“Such adverse outcomes of violence to the communities of color include mental distress and trauma, unmet need for a sense of safety, unmet need for mental health care, increased barriers to health behaviors, and eventually increased risks of injury and chronic conditions. For example, we see evidence that racism is linked to increased firearm purchase, carriage and unsafe storage among Asian Americans. We also see evidence that violence exposure is linked to early-onset hypertension and cancer risks among African Americans. It is important to know such effects are chronic and cumulative for both the communities of color and the society in general. We need public health approaches and systemic efforts to address it.”