I am a brown immigrant from South America with a Spanish accent when I speak English. I am “liberal” by the political definition this country assigns to my life ethos, and, if you ask some conservative folks, I am here to replace those of you who are White and American-born.
The National Immigration Forum defined what has come to be known as the “Great Replacement Theory” as the idea that welcoming immigrants, particularly non-White immigrants, is a plot meant to replace American White culture and its political power.
Non-White immigrants are, hence, dangerous.
This theory is not new and is not unique to the United States. It originated in early 20th century France as the brainchild of Maurice Barres. Later it was adopted by Renaud Camus, who published an essay in 2011 called “Le Grand Replacement.” Camus feared the extinction of the White European culture by the “invasion” of African and Middle Eastern immigrants. The theory made its way to the USA over the next few years, where right-wing White supremacists adopted it like those who marched at the University of Virginia in 2017 chanting, “Jews will not replace us.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the fear it elicits has fueled violent responses such as the shootings of the Tree of Life Synagogue in PA in 2018, a Walmart in El Paso, TX, in 2019, and a grocery store in Buffalo, NY in 2022.
But while violence is an extreme reaction to the theory, White supremacy is not always cloaked in hoods embroidered with three-letter emblems, carrying guns and torches. The “Great Replacement Theory” has now become part of the everyday narrative of news channels and politicians’ rhetoric, making it even more dangerous than extremist outliers. It has become mainstream and, hence, part of the conversation around dinner tables.
By 2018 news hosts and politicians in this country began using phrases like White “cultural genocide” and pointing out that American citizens were being replaced with “illegals” that would vote for a particular party, even though undocumented immigrants are not allowed to vote. That rhetoric has only grown in popularity in the years since.
The reality that our country’s demographics are, in fact, changing makes this theory more menacing than ever. The U.S. Census Bureau expects that by 2044 the White majority will cease to be so. And there are many reasons for this demographic shift, including immigration and fertility trends. Still, in April 2022, the Southern Poverty Law Center conducted a poll that showed that 67% of the people surveyed who identified as Republican believed that these changes in demographics are orchestrated by liberal leaders trying to replace the conservative voters.
These beliefs fuel who people vote for, from the highest positions to local elections, of course. They will choose leaders who push these ideas and continue to disseminate misinformation and mistrust among their constituents. These leaders will make policy decisions that will be informed by their prejudice and affect immigrants and refugees negatively.
Christians cannot be silent in the face of this because, above all, the Great Replacement Theory is rooted in the idea that there is a hierarchy of superiority in which White, US-born, conservative Christians are the “true Americans” and have an inherently higher value to this country than anyone who falls into a different category. It also promotes the idea that if the country were to “fall into the hands of these ‘others,’” it would destroy American society as we know it.
The people of Christ have been given two directives that contradict this worldview and compel us to speak out against it with power and truth:
We are called to love each other and not fear.
There are at least 70 Old Testament passages reminding God’s people not to walk in fear, and writers of the New Testament teach us how to love each other well, no less than 15 times.
The supremacy of a race and the fear of anyone who does not fit within that race is not of Christ. We have been taught that all people were created in the image of God and are infinitely valuable for that reason alone.
But personally and selfishly, I want my brothers and sisters in Christ not to be silent because I worry for the well-being of people like me, living daily in Brown, Spanish-speaking bodies side by side with folks who embrace this theory. They may not pick up a gun and shoot up a synagogue or a grocery store in a primarily Black or Brown neighborhood, but their fear of being replaced in position, power, and space will affect how they react, behave, and interact with someone like me.
The stories told by Latinos of subtle aggression and hateful speech reveal that we need every voice of truth to drown out these lies.
By Gabriela Bruitron
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