“Replacement theory” explained

“Replacement theory” made headlines when it was revealed as the motivation of the 18-year-old racist behind the Buffalo mass murder. But it explains much more than a single act of race violence. It’s a major force in the Trump movement and Republican politics. Let’s look at why.

Toni Morrison was a black woman, a writer, and a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner. She was honored for giving voice to African-American perspectives on U.S. society. She wrote,

“Unlike any nation in Europe, the United States holds whiteness as the unifying force. Here, for many people, the definition of ‘Americanness’ is color.” Reflecting on efforts — largely by White men — to define themselves by sustaining that poisonous definition, Morrison argues that those “who are prepared to abandon their humanity out of fear of black men and women, suggest the true horror of lost status.”

Whether you agree or not, that’s how she saw it. As CNN explains (here),

“In Morrison’s formulation, fear-driven devotion to racial status is more powerful to many White Americans than even self-interest, shame or any belief in humanity. And it is this reality, that White Americans’ anxieties in the face of a changing country have been and continue to be weaponized with disastrous and violent results, that has been instrumental in fueling the spread of so-called ‘replacement theory,’ the false and bigoted claim that elites are conspiring to replace Whites with minorities.”

I think it’s indisputable that (1) America is changing, (2) there’s a White backlash, (3) race is being “weaponized” in a political sense (see, e.g., GOP efforts to ban teaching race history from schools), and (4) political violence is on the rise in America. Whether you agree with the rest of her assessment is up to you.

CNN contributor Frida Ghitis says, “Racism, anti-Semitism and a resentment of immigrants are nothing new. What is new is that in America, a land of diversity and immigrants, what used to be a fringe theory has found sympathetic voices in one of the two main political parties.” You can disagree with that, but the evidence is pretty strong, even if leading Republicans are shying away from the term (but not the idea) after the Buffalo shooting.

There was always going to be a backlash to the election of Obama, a black man, to the presidency. And to the offshoring of blue-collar jobs, the hollowing out of the middle class (partly a result of Republican policies), and more recently, the election defeat of Trump, who gave voice (albeit not constructive voice) to the frustrations and resentments of White males, who have less sway over the other elements of our society (women, minorities) than they once did.

Climb three feet up, slide two feet back; climb three feet up, slide two feet back. Social progress has always looked like that.

“Replacement theory” is getting attention now, not so much because of the Buffalo shooting (such events are common), but because it’s so toxic. It’s unadulterated racism, based on hate and paranoia, and threatens to drag our society deeper into conflict and, potentially, political violence.

Readers may wish to express opinions on this subject, but this blog’s editor is dead and I’m only a contributor, so comments don’t post and go into a black hole.

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