‘Great Replacement Theory’ means Buffalo shooting victims also could’ve been any of us
Ten African Americans in Buffalo were shot dead on Saturday in a shocking racist killing. It was a headline the country didn’t need. We have too many of them already.
Surely, we Filipino Americans in that broad Asian American category know the violence all too well.
May has been one violent Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month. From the murder of a Chinese delivery worker in Forest Hill Queens, to the shooting of three Korean Americans at a salon in Dallas, to this past Sunday’s shooting of five Asian Americans at a Taiwanese church service in Laguna Woods, Orange County, California, it’s been a horrible month so far.
But we must also realize that the ten victims in Buffalo, could have easily been ten Asian American Filipinos.
The alleged gunman, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, had racist anti-black slogans on his semi-automatic weapons. He also believed in an anti-immigration idea known as “The Replacement Theory.”
This is an old conspiratorial belief that our country’s elite are out to replace whites in society by pumping up immigration. That includes Asians and Hispanics.
Replacement Theory only makes sense as a racist fantasy to explain a drop in the white population, but the conspiracy has gained popularity as the Census shows the browning of America. It’s further exacerbated by both right-wing traditional media like OANN, Newsmax and Fox, as well as on modern social media. Disinformation? Well, more like hammering home a falsehood into impressionable, gullible minds. And in the case of Gendron, perhaps an unstable mind. Gendron was reportedly perceived a year ago in high school as having mental health issues.
All this comes after a new Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research report says there are more people like Gendron in America than we think.
One in three adults (32 percent) believe there is a group trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains, according to the survey.
Another 29 percent say that immigration is leading to native born Americans losing economic, political and cultural influence.
Of these two ideas, the study shows one in five Americans (17 percent) believe both.
The Payton Gendrons of the world are in this mix.
And the number of people in this group around the country is a whole lot bigger than we ever suspected.
“It’s a larger segment of the population than we may have expected going into this who have this fairly extreme view,” Jennifer Benz of NORC told the Los Angeles Times.
In other words, with a third of adults believing in part of Replacement Theory, and near 20 percent believing in both major tenents of the conspiracy, we are seeing the foundations of American Neo-Nazi belief creeping into mainstream American thought.
If this is driving the immigration debate from the political right, expect a rough ride toward any kind of immigration policy.
Consider these other findings from the AP/NORC Survey: 4 in 5 think getting welfare or government benefits is a major or minor factor for why immigrants come to the U.S; Or that 36 percent of Americans are in favor of restricting the number of to the U.S., including more than half of the white believers in conspiracy theories like the Replacement Theory.
And of course, all these folks believe in the 2nd Amendment and guns.
“That intersectionality should scare you,” said Professor Dan Gonzales, Asian American History and Politics professor in San Francisco State University’s College of Ethnic Studies.
It means that Gendron isn’t just an isolated case, nor is it a matter of if only Gendron was helped a year ago then the problem would be solved. It’s not just Gendron, There are others. And more than likely they are armed.
I talked to Gonzales about Replacement Theory in general on my “Emil Amok’s Takeout” Friday, E.308. “The major motivation for (replacement theory) is fear of losing position and power relative to the rest of society,” he told me. “They have no consciousness of what life has been like for people of color in this society….they are in fear that they might be subjected to treatment that people of color were subjected to for four centuries.”
Another way to describe it as fear of the increased competition, with BIPOC communities succeeding and growing representation in fields that were traditionally seen as “whites only.”
For some, relying on the conspiracy theory of a replacement theory is the only way to make sense of a dwindling white supremacy.
But what I found scary about the AP/NORC survey is that a solution isn’t as easy as putting more truth into the news diet of Americans. The survey said 45 percent of conspiratorial thinkers watched the One America News Network and Newsmaxx. Only 31 percent watched Fox. CNN had 13 percent and MSNBC, 11 percent.
But here’s why simply debunking conspiratorial lies won’t work.
For the last ten years, social scientists have found that it’s one’s personality that determines whether one is prone to conspiracy theories. People are attracted to the lies and the theory. Not to the truth.
And that’s the troubling thing. Putting the truth out there, or finding common ground and logically working things through won’t win over conspiracy minded folks. Not if it’s all about being a personality, prone to believing untruths.
That suggests the need for a more psychological/mental health approach if anyone is interested in getting to a solution.
It makes suspects like Gendron worth noting if we’re to understand what is really going on in America.
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He writes a weekly column for the Inquirer’s North American bureau.
NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on www.amok.com.