In 2017, when white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanted “They will not replace us,” they may not have understood the inspiration for that slogan. It’s a slogan and a movement within the far-right that has steadily gained traction since then. The mass shooting inside a crowded, Buffalo, New York, supermarket on Saturday, which killed 10 people and injured three more, is renewing fierce condemnation of the racist conspiracy known as the “great replacement theory,” after a racist manifesto believed to have been written by the gunman was uncovered online.
The Great Replacement Theory, or GRT, is popular among white supremacists who push the racist falsehood that white people are purposely being replaced by people of color. It is a theory that was popularized in Europe in 2011 by French philosopher Renaud Camus. The theory was based on the belief that increased immigration of non-white immigrants in Europe could lead to the extinction of the white race in Europe.
GRT is no longer confined to extreme right-wing fringes. As we reported last week, according to a recent poll by the Associated Press, about 1 in 3 U.S. adults believes an effort is underway to replace U.S.-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains. About one-third of voting adults believe more immigration is causing U.S.-born Americans to lose their economic, political and cultural influence.
It’s this exact rhetoric that was reportedly found in the 180-page manifesto written by the 18-year-old shooter who traveled several hours to the grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood. “Zip code 14208 in Buffalo has the highest black percentage that is close enough to where I live,” a line from the manifesto reads.
This isn’t the first time a manifesto was found using the same “replacement” theory language by a terrorist to justify mass murder. In 2019, the gunman who massacred 49 Muslims in two mosques in New Zealand also referenced immigrants who were “invited by the state and corporate entities to replace the White people who have failed to reproduce.”
Republican leaders, including border governors Doug Ducey of Arizona and Greg Abbott of Texas — who is running for reelection this year — have increasingly decried what they call an “invasion,” with conservative politicians traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border to pose for photos alongside former President Donald Trump’s border wall.
Of course, it must be noted that newly arrived immigrants can’t actually vote in federal elections because they aren’t citizens. The process of becoming a citizen can often take up to seven years or longer.
Those facts aren’t stated on Tucker Carlson’s show as he builds upon the racist, nativist anxiety that white citizens are steadily being replaced, as their votes are “watered down.” In fact, Carlson used GRT as a justification for the Capitol riots on January 6. “The Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World,” Carlson said on Fox News Primetime.
New Mexico GOP Rep. Yvette Herrell has made claims that “If we don’t get a handle on the southern border “we will dilute the American way so much.”