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The horrific massacre that claimed the lives of ten Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York was carried out by a racist who was inspired by “replacement theory”, a fringe belief that has seemingly become the mainstream view of the GOP. But what is it, exactly?
“Replacement Theory” has reared its ugly head once again, this time as the core inspiration behind 18-year-old Payton Gendron opening fire in a supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York this past Saturday (May 14th) as he live-streamed the incident through the Twitch platform. In a 180-page manifesto he posted online before committing the domestic terror attack while donning tactical body armor, he cited the theory claiming that his victims were from a culture set out to “ethnically replace my own people.”
While media outlets have referred to him as a “lone wolf”, researchers point out that he drew from replacement theory in the same manner as the attackers in the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting that killed 11 worshippers in 2018 and the Wal-Mart shooting in El Paso, Texas the following year that took 23 lives, preceded only by the infamous events in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.
“Replacement theory,” is the concept that the elites and liberals of Western society are out to take power away from and “replace” white Americans and other whites worldwide with immigrants and other ethnic minorities, with assistance and manipulation from Jewish people. The theory, once relegated to fringe white nationalist bulletin boards and owes part of its existence to a French novelist, has gained more popularity within the Republican Party, spurred on by the election of President Barack Obama in 2008 [Editor’s Note: Blame the Black guy.] and studies finding that white people will be the minority in the U.S. by 2045. Once former President Donald Trump took office in 2016 fueled by an open appeal to the bigotry behind replacement theory found in his slogans and policies aimed at immigrants, the GOP has steadily seen its members embrace it to gain political power.
Recently, replacement theory has become a consistent part of Tucker Carlson’s Sly FOX News program within the past year with over 400 episodes seeing the host claim that Democrats and other elites want to change the nation’s demographics through immigration. The position has also been adopted by rightwing parents as the impetus behind forcing school boards in states like Texas and Kansas to ban books and lessons that they claim are forcing Critical Race Theory on their children. Critical Race Theory, inspired by the work of academic and civil-rights attorney Derrick Bell and others, is a cross-disciplinary movement examining the entire intersection of race, society, and law in the U.S. utilizing critical thought and research.
As the midterm elections approach, there’s been no shortage of Republican and conservative politicians who have culled their talking points from replacement theory. Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona has put out statements on social media from neo-Nazis harkening back to it, and Representative Elise Stefanik from upstate New York who is a Trump loyalist, came under fire after the shooting after as many pointed out that she purchased a Facebook ad that referenced replacement theory, claiming that Democrats were plotting “a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION” last September.
Recent studies show that replacement theory has become part of the mainstream among those on the right, with one in three American adults believing there is an effort “to replace native-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains,” according to an Associated Press poll taken last month. Stefanik has since issued a statement denouncing the “dangerous media smears” through Twitter about her and condemning the shooting while appearing to not back away from the rhetoric influenced by replacement theory.
The fact of the matter is, there needs to be a great deal more discussion and action denouncing replacement theory before the next mass shooting incident fueled by it happens again.