Where does the “replacement theory” come from and why it refuses to go away

Before the gunman killed 10 blacks in Buffalo, New York, in a supermarket on Saturday afternoon, he had declared his intention to “kill as many blacks as possible.” He reportedly wrote these words in a 180-page screed posted online before carrying out what investigators call a hate crime and a racist act of violent extremism.

The 18-year-old white man who claimed to drive for hours to the zip code he targeted in Buffalo because “he has the highest percentage of blacks which is quite close to where I live,” repeatedly complained about immigration. which he feared would translate into “ethnic substitution”, “cultural substitution”, “racial substitution” and, finally, he wrote, “white genocide”.

This is the “white replacement theory” or the “great replacement” that has motivated similar mass murders in recent years – the racist conspiracy theory which holds that, through immigration, interracial marriage, integration and violence, e At the behest of covert forces orchestrated by “global elites” (as the Buffalo killer claimed) or Jews, whites are deprived of civil rights, deprived of power and expelled from “white nations”.

These ideas are not new. The forces of white fear that shaped the. Have been documented for at least a century quotas of national origin from the 1920s. They have inspired mass attacks – and even cases of small-scale violence – that have claimed the lives of hundreds of people in the United States and abroad.

A brief history of the imperfect and racist substitution conspiracy theory

In the United States, whites’ fears of being replaced by “strangers” and migrants of “inferior” origins have a long history. These fears were particularly evident in the early 1900s, when white intellectuals openly explored and shared ideas about displacement that shaped immigration policies and other laws.

One of the main supporters was Madison Granta lawyer, eugenicist and environmentalist who published The passage of the great race in 1916, claiming that the alleged “Nordic” race was in danger of extinction in the United States. Grant supported sterilization programs for allegedly inferior races, immigration restrictions, and anti-crossbreeding laws that would stop any intermixing between racial groups.

Grant’s work has had lasting consequences, influencing the legislators who drafted the Immigration Act of 1924, which has limited the number of immigrants from southern and western Europe for 40 years. His work left an impression on President Theodore Roosevelt, who praised him as “a book of capital”; President Calvin Coolidge echoed Grant’s ideas in a 1921 Good Housekeeping article, “Whose Country Is This?” arguing that the US should refuse to be considered a “drainage ground” for “an advancing horde of aliens”. Adolf Hitler, meanwhile, he referred to Grant’s work as his Bible.

Grant wasn’t alone in making his argument. Four years later, a follower of his historian Lothrop Stoddard published The Rising Tide of Color: The Threat Against White World Supremacy, in which he likewise warned that the Nordic race would be eliminated or absorbed by “alien hordes” of immigrants whom he considered of lesser value, including “Alpine, Mediterranean, Levantine and Jewish”. He called for racial solidarity among whites to preserve what he considered “good supplies”. Stoddard also influenced elected officials such as Warren G. Harding, who praised the book in a public address in 1921 and overseas leaders in Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand Nazi Germany.

By the end of World War II, the ideas promulgated by Grant and Stoddard were largely disavowed by the elites for their association with the Nazis and the Holocaust. But they has not disappeared. United States Senator and former Mississippi Governor Theodore G. Bilbo published the book Make your choice: separation or bastardization in 1947, in which he discussed that the “Caucasian race”, to whom he attributed the creation of civilization, was “in danger” by blacks, whom he regarded as “bastards” who could not “maintain a culture”.

The 1970s saw the use of the phrase “white genocide” in the official newspaper of the National Socialist Party of the White People (formerly the American Nazi Party), which argued that “campaigns for birth control” would drive whites “four to one outnumbered”. 1973 by Jean Raspail dystopian fantasy novel Field of Saintsdepicted a world in which France and the Western world are overrun by dark-skinned foreign refugees – a text “widely revered” by white supremacists, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The controversial 1994 book The bell curve discussed that the United States was encouraging “wrong women” to have children and that “immigrant intelligence is a legitimate topic politicians need to think about” because Latin and black immigrants are, at least in the short term, putting some pressure on the distribution of intelligence “.

French philosopher and white nationalist Renaud Camus helped give new life to the theory in a 2012 book, Le Grand Substitution. in a 2017 interview with Vox After the “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Camus said the extremists who chanted “We will not be replaced” had reason to fear that the United States could turn into “just another poor, abandoned, hyperviolent and stupefied quarter of the ‘ global village. ‘”

At the heart of the replacement theory is the concept of protecting a white “race”, which is not necessarily bounded by borders but simply held together by racist ideas of white power and alleged white domination.

The substitution theory is the connecting link of racist violence

Turner’s diaries, a 1978 novel about a race war that eliminates all non-whites, directly inspired the Oklahoma City bomber, who killed 168 people. The same text inspired the Norwegian far-right extremist who killed 77 peoplemostly immigrants, in a bombing and rampage in 2011, saying he was fighting “mass immigration”.

The Norwegian extremist inspired the New Zealand killer, who killed at least 50 Muslim faithful in Christchurch, New Zealand mosques in 2019. leaving a document which explained an alleged “assault on the European people”.

And the New Zealand shooter particularly inspired the Buffalo shooter, according to its 180-page screed.

People pray outside the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York on May 15th. The grocery store, in a historically black neighborhood, was the site of a mass shooting that killed 10 people and injured three others on May 14. The accused gunman posted an online screed supporting the “replacement theory” shortly before the shooting.
Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

The replacement theory forms the threads that connect this web of violence: from the Oklahoma bombing to Norway, from New Zealand to Buffalo. Like University of Chicago historian Kathleen Belew he told Vox After the Christchurch massacre in 2019, white supremacists motivated by replacement theory and white power see themselves fighting for “the Aryan nation”.

The connections don’t stop there. The killer who killed 23 people in El Paso, Texas in 2019 claimed to have acted in response to the “Hispanic invasion” of the state.

In 2018, a man who blamed Jews for helping resettle immigrants 11 Jews killed in tree of life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

The white man who killed nine black worshipers in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015 said he was concerned about “living in the crucible”; the white man who stabbed two people to death on a train in Oregon in May 2017 after molesting two Muslim women, joined the idea that there should be a “white homeland for whites only”. The man who opened fire at a California synagogue, killing one and wounding three others in 2019, wrote in an open letter that Jews were preparing a “meticulously planned genocide of the European race” and cited the Christchurch shootings. and Pittsburgh for inspiration.

The whites who gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 for the Unite the Right rally, where a white supremacist hit and killed a woman with his car, sang. “you will not replace us” And “The Jews will not replace us. “

Replacement theory has become mainstream among Republicans

Meanwhile, the rhetoric of replacement theory has become increasingly important among some Republicans. Party members espoused the principles of replacement theory e some have claimed it by nameto help strengthen anti-immigration sentiments and policies.

During his presidency, Donald Trump repeatedly used the arguments and tropes that form the basis of the replacement theory: Whites were facing a “white genocide” due to an “invasion” by foreigners. “We don’t want what is happening with immigration to Europe to happen with us!” Trump tweeted in 2018. The former president’s latest presidential campaign ran more than 2,000 ads containing the word “invasion,” according to a New York Times. analyses.

Following Trump’s fear that a caravan of migrants of Central Americans were heading for the southern border of the United States, other lawmakers adopted the language. Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) has repeatedly tweeted from TO invasion against which legislators must act.

Former Iowa Rep Steve King, who was in Congress from 2003 to 2021, has consistently expressed concerns about the replacement. Hello in 2017 tweeted“We cannot restore our civilization with someone else’s children”, once retweeted the fears of a Nazi sympathizer about migration and celebrated the Hungarian authoritarian leader Viktor Orbán for denouncing the “mixture of cultures”.

Fox News’ Tucker Carlson may have become the main proponent of the substitution theory on the right. In about 400 episodes of his show since 2016, according to a New York Times analyses, shared ideas on replacement. hey too he used the idea to defend the people who led the January 6, 2021 uprising at the United States Capitol. “In political terms, this policy is called the great replacement, the replacement of inherited Americans with more obedient people from distant countries,” Carlson he said on his schedule last year in response to Haitian migrants arriving at the border.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) defended Carlson’s interpretation of the substitution theory on Twitter, stating that the news host was “correct” in his analysis of “what’s happening to America”.

There is some evidence that these ideas are resonating with Americans. A great survey conducted by the Associated Press and the NORC in late 2021, it found that about one in three US adults think a plot is underway to replace US-born Americans with immigrants. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to believe that Native Americans were losing economic, political, and cultural influence through immigration.

Substitution theory has a long history, but it is no longer dormant, if it ever was, in the past or in the black holes of the Internet. The conspiracy allows the violence of white supremacists to remain “the most persistent and deadly threat”In America, as long as the country does not eradicate it.