This last Saturday, an 18-year-old white gunman entranced by a white supremacist ideology known as “replacement theory” opened fire at a supermarket in Buffalo, methodically shooting and killing 10 people and injuring three more, almost all of them black, in one of the deadliest racist attacks in American.
Identified by authorities as Payton S. Gendron from Conklin, a small town in New York’s southern rural tier, the gunman over 200 miles to mount his attack. The police say the gunman live-streamed a chilling video which appeared designed to promote his sinister agenda.
Through the 180 pages of hate-filled writings that Gendron posted online, a common theme emerged that white Americans are in danger of being replaced by people of colour.
Gunmen have referred to the racist idea, known as “replacement theory,” during a string of mass shootings and other violence in recent years. It was once associated with the far-right fringe, but has become increasingly mainstream, pushed by politicians, notably Republicans and popular television channels such as Fox News.
President Biden called for a thorough investigation of the Buffalo shooting and said the nation “must do everything in our power to end hate-fuelled domestic terrorism.”
Biden went on to say, “we don’t need anything else to state a clear moral truth: A racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation.”
The racist conspiracy theory holds that, through immigration, interracial marriages, integration, and violence, and at the behest of secret forces orchestrated by “global elites” or Jews, white people are being disenfranchised, disempowered, and pushed out of white nations.
These ideas are not new and have been documented for at least a century, driving the forces of white fear that shaped the national origin quotas of the 1920s, coincidentally a time that black people had gained access to higher education and their businesses were thriving.
They have inspired mass attacks and also smaller-scale instances of violence that have claimed the lives of thousands of people in the United States and abroad.
A leading proponent was Madison Grant, a lawyer, eugenicist, and conservationist who published The Passing of the Great Race in 1916, arguing that the supposedly superior “Nordic” race was in danger of extinction in the United States.
Grant advocated for sterilisation programmes for “inferior” races, immigration restrictions, and anti-miscegenation laws that would stop any intermingling between racial groups.
Grant’s work had far reaching consequences, influencing lawmakers who drafted the Immigration Act of 1924, which limited the number of immigrants from southern and western Europe for 40 years.
President Theodore Roosevelt praised Grant’s writing as “a capital book” while President Calvin Coolidge echoed those ideas claiming that the United States should reject being regarded as a “dumping ground” for an “advancing horde of aliens.”
Adolf Hitler, meanwhile, referred to Grant’s work as his Bible. In 1920, historian Lothrop Stoddard published The Rising Tide of Color: The Threat Against White World Supremacy, in which he warned that the Nordic race would be eliminated or “absorbed by “alien hordes” of immigrants that he viewed to be of lesser value including “Alpines, Mediterraneans, Levantines and Jews.”
He called for race solidarity among white people to conserve what he called “good stocks” (as in animal husbandry!). Stoddard also influenced politicians like Warren G. Harding, who praised the book in a public speech in 1921, and leaders in Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and Nazi Germany.Harding HH
By the end of WWII, the ideas that Grant and Stoddard promulgated were largely disavowed by elites because they were not politically correct for their association with the Nazis and the Holocaust. But that did not mean that they disappeared altogether; they just took a sabbatical while the Holocaust issue boiled over.
US senator and former governor of Mississippi Theodore G. Bilbo published the book Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelisation in 1947, in which he argued that the “Caucasian race”, which he credited with creating civilisation, was “in jeopardy” from black people whom he considered “mongrels” who could not “maintain a culture.”
The 1970s saw the use of the phrase “white genocide” in the official newspaper of the National Socialist White People’s Party (formerly the American Nazi Party), which argued that “birth control campaigns” would make whites “outnumbered four to one.”
Jean Raspail’s dystopian fantasy novel, Camp of the Saints, depicted a world in which France and the Western world are invaded by foreign dark-skinned refugees, a text “widely revered” by white supremacists, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
The controversial 1994 book The Bell Curve argued that the United States was encouraging the “wrong women” to have babies, and that “the intelligence of immigrants is a legitimate topic for policymakers to think about” since “Latin and Black immigrants are, at least in the short run, putting some downward pressure on the distribution of intelligence.”
French philosopher and white nationalist Renaud Camus helped give the theory new life in his 2012 book, Le Grand Replacement.
In a 2017 interview following the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, Camus argued that the extremists who shouted “we will not be replaced” had reason to be concerned that the United States could change into “just another poor, derelict, hyperviolent, and stupefied quarter of the global village (it almost did during the Covid-19 pandemic!).
At the core of replacement theory is the concept of protecting a white “race,” one that is not necessarily bound by borders but simply held together by racist ideas of white power and supposed white dominance.
And I agree that these white supremacists have a real reason to worry about replacement theory. After all, they know quite a lot about the theory and practice.
Who replaced the Maoris in New Zealand, the Aborigines in Australia, the Inuits (First Nations) in Canada, the Red Indians (a misnomer) in North America, the Incas in South America, and many Black people in Africa millions of whom were shipped to America to work as slaves?