The “woke mob” didn’t kill 10 people in Buffalo.
A transgender swimmer didn’t kill 10 people in Buffalo.
A teacher talking about critical race theory didn’t kill 10 people in Buffalo.
No, the biggest menace to Americans continues to be an angry white man echoing Fox News talking points.
In this case, the justification for mass homicide was a favorite among conservatives: replacement theory, the malignant idea that “many different kinds of social change are connected to a plot by a cabal of élites to eradicate the white race,” which adherents believe is synonymous with their nation.
So to a follower of replacement theory, the fact that white people are becoming a smaller percentage of the American population is not simple demographics. It is an active plot by someone (e.g., the Jews) to wipe out white people and replace them with savage, dim-witted Blacks and Latinos, for some vague, incomprehensible, evil reason.
However, replacement theory is not just a bizarre rationale for bigotry. It connects abortion, immigration, gay rights, feminism, multiculturalism, and everything that can be interpreted as “part of a series of threats to the white birth rate.” Any political or social development that potentially means fewer white people becomes a crisis for them.
The clever thing about replacement theory is that it can be reworked and customized to select enemies that are “the scapegoat of a particular time and place.” So the French can hate on Muslims, and the British can hate on Indians, Americans can hate on Latinos, and so on.
For example, about 30 percent of U.S. adults believe “an effort is underway to replace U.S.-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains,” and a similar percentage “worry that more immigration is causing U.S.-born Americans to lose their economic, political and cultural influence.”
This is a polite way of saying that one-third of Americans are racists and/or conspiracy nuts.
Of course, the optimistic among us say that we should focus on the fact that two-thirds of Americans believe that having people of “many different races, ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds” makes our country stronger.
Yes, it’s good that a solid majority of Americans are not xenophobic loons. But unfortunately, our friends in the Republican Party have made replacement theory a key aspect of their political identity, and as we know, they don’t care if most Americans agree with them or not.
The conservative embrace of replacement theory continues, unapologetically and with great force, even as the rest of America draws “parallels between the pattern of racist gunmen citing fears of a conspiracy to ‘replace’ Whites with rhetoric pushed on Fox and by some Republican politicians.”
This is not a question of noticing similarities. On the contrary, it is impossible to ignore the commonality between the manifestos of a blood-thirsty gunman and the screeds of Fox News hosts. The Venn-diagram overlap between avowed white supremacists and certain GOP congressmen is total and complete.
Now, as many Americans have pointed out, even if ethnic minorities were “replacing” white people, it shouldn’t bother you… unless you hate ethnic minorities or are desperate to cling to power by virtue of your white race. But those are hardly flattering portrayals of people who insist they are not racist and that racism doesn’t even exist.
So conservatives often play up the “globalist” aspect of replacement theory. This is not much better, however, because studies have shown that people who believe in conspiracy theories are often right-wing extremists who don’t think so good (to paraphrase the experts). Many conspiracy theories, of course, have racist or anti-Semitic origins, and they may even serve as a sort of gateway drug to distrust in democracy itself.
Of course, no conspiracy theory has ever been proven to be true. Also, consider that there is apparently never a conspiracy to oppress Latinos or Blacks, despite our nation’s history of hostility and violence to ethnic minorities. No, it is always white suburbanites in the crosshairs of the Illuminati.
Of course, “what’s actually happening, right in front of us, all the time, is that systems are causing uncoordinated actions to occur.” For example, there is no conspiracy among corporations to screw over people, because they act “within the system that they’ve built for themselves” and don’t need “to have a secret meeting to pull things off.”
So conservatives circle the periphery of reality like vultures, waiting for a fresh bigoted conspiracy to drop so they can snag a juicy carcass to gnaw on. But in the real world, replacement theory is “a fundamentally anti-democratic movement that’s interested in overthrowing the U.S. government and creating a race war.”
And that is not a conspiracy theory. It is the stated goal of extremist groups that account for most of the political violence that has occurred over the past decade.
Even as young white men mow down Blacks and Latinos, Republicans continue to deny that they are inflaming racism or prodding lunatics to take matters into their own hands. They claim it is conservative white people who are under attack—not Black people in grocery stores or Latinos in parking lots or Asians at work or gay people walking down the street. Nope.
Republicans insist that they just care about America, and there is some truth to this, in that they care about their version of America, and no one else’s.
Featured image: ‘The High Tide of Immigration—A National Menace’; cartoon by Louis Dalrymple from Judge magazine, August 1903 (The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum)