““My father was a slave, and my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay here and have a part of it just like you.”
— Paul Robeson
A disturbingly prevalent pretext developing among White nationalists is the “The Replacement Theory,” which argues that nonwhite immigrants are being imported (sometimes the Jewish community is tarred with orchestrating this) to “replace” White people and White voters. The purported goal is for non-White culture to replace White culture through mass migration and immigration. In other words, Jews and people of color are “taking over” the government and society to marginalize Whites. It originally took hold in France and throughout Europe and has gained traction in the U.S.
This ideology was on full display during the 2007 far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia when crowds of White men marched with torches chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” More recently, it reared its ugly head again at the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capital.
Political scientist Robert Pape studied the 380 or so people arrested in connection with that insurrection. According to the NY Times, Pape “expected to find that the rioters were driven to violence by the lingering effects of the 2008 Great Recession. Instead, he found something different. His polling and demographic data showed that most of the insurrectionists were motivated by the fear that the rights of minorities and immigrants were crowding out the rights of white people in American politics and culture.” (NY Times, April 7, 2021, p. A-15)
The spread of such a hateful, racist ideology is frightening. Federal authorities now indicate that American extremists are the most urgent terrorist threat to the country. Since January 6, 2021, researchers have identified members of more than a dozen extremist groups that took part in the riot. The storming of the Capital drew extremists that included QAnon conspiracists, the far-right group the Proud Boys, militiamen, White supremacists, and die-hard Trump supporters. And who makes up most of these groups? White men.
Yes, the demographics of our country are changing. We are becoming more diverse and less White. But that is the result of broad demographic changes and not a sinister plot to eliminate or replace White culture. America is a nation of immigrants. Always has been. And it is the vibrant mix of people of all nationalities, backgrounds, and colors, that is our greatest strength. The fact is this “theory” is simply a harmful, hateful, racist, divisive lie.
Want to know something that you can do to be a positive force for social and racial justice? The next time you hear someone spout this Replacement Theory nonsense, call them on it!