“Hate will not prevail. White supremacy will not have the last word.”— President Joe Biden.
The recent mass killing of 10 individuals at the Tops Friendly Market on Jefferson Avenue in East Buffalo, New York, on May 14 has once again raised the matters of racism and gun control.
According to officials, the white teenage gunman, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, drove some three hours to commit this racially motivated hate crime in the predominantly black neighbourhood. The news reported that 11 of the 13 victims were black. As reported by authorities, the suspect, who lives about 200 miles away in Conklin, NY, drove to the Tops store on May 14 and around 2:30 pm opened fire in the parking lot, killing three people and wounding a fourth. Armed with an assault-style rifle, he then entered the store and shot customers and workers before surrendering near the lobby, where he was met by law enforcement.
One has to ask the question: What if the Buffalo gunman was black, would law enforcement officers allow him to surrender or would law enforcement have engaged him in a gunfight? Police said he live-streamed the shooting from a camera atop a helmet he wore as part of his armored gear.
Tops Friendly Market was the only accessible supermarket on the east side of Main Street, where more than 80 per cent of the residents are black and the median household income is less than US$20,000 per annum. It operates about 150 supermarkets in New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.
The shooting at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, comes seven years after the horrific shooting at a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, which took the lives of nine African Americans. The shooter was 21-year-old Dylann Roof. The Charleston massacre was a clear act of white supremacist violence and hatred. African Americans continue to be hunted down by white supremacists and this is problematic.
THE GREAT REPLACEMENT THEORY
The Great Replacement Theory (GRT) has its roots in early 20th century French nationalism and books by French nationalist and author Maurice Barres. However, it was French writer and critic Renaud Camus who popularised the phrase for today’s audience when he published an essay titled Le Grand Remplacement or The Great Replacement in 2011. Camus himself alluded to the Great Replacement Theory in his earlier works and was apparently influenced by Jean Raspail’s racist novel in 1973, The Camp of the Saints.
Camus believes that native white Europeans are being replaced in their countries by non-white immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, and the end result will be the extinction of the white race. Camus focused on Muslim immigration to Europe and the theory that Muslims and other non-white populations had a much higher birth rate than whites.
It is clear this Camus’s racist theory of white supremacy has gained traction and wide appeal, not only in some European countries, but in North America and as far away as Australia and New Zealand. However, Camus’s initial concept did not focus on Jews and was not anti-Semitic.
This philosophy was quickly adopted and encouraged by the white supremacist movement as it fits into their conspiracy theory about the impending destruction of the white race. In March 2019, white supremacist Brenton Tarrant live-streamed himself killing 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand. Tarrant also released a manifesto online called ‘The Great Replacement’ as homage to Camus’s work.
We live in a time and age where hate, discrimination, and prejudice are hallmarks of many societies. The virtual space has become poisoned and many individuals have become radicalised via the Internet. We must be guarded regarding what we allow our minds to entertain.
In October 2018, white supremacist Robert Bowers killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after posting a message blaming Jews for bringing non-white immigrants and refugees to the USA.
In August 2019, white supremacist Patrick Crusius opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 23 people and wounding almost two dozen. In a manifesto, Crusius talked about a “Hispanic invasion” and made reference to the great replacement.
On October 27, 2018, 11 congregants in a Pittsburgh synagogue were killed in one of the deadliest attacks against the Jewish community in the US. The shooter’s belief in the Great Replacement Theory precipitated the attack.
Hate crime is defined by the Department of Justice as a crime motivated by bias against race, colour, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. The term ‘hate’ can be misleading. When used in hate crime law, the word does not mean rage, anger, or general dislike. In this context it means bias against people or groups with specific characteristics that are defined by the law. At the federal level, hate crime laws include crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s perceived or actual race, colour, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.
Those of us who are privileged to have a social media platform space must be careful of the messages we expound as oftentimes we are influencers, whether or not we like it.
The Great Replacement Theory, which was once relegated to white supremacist rhetoric, has unfortunately found its way in the consciousness and discourse of mainstream society. Among the supporters of this “racist” discourse is Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who complains repeatedly that the Democratic Party is attempting to “replace the current electorate” with “third-world voters”. Since Carlson’s comments, numerous public figures on the far right have echoed or supported this “great replacement” theory which has also been called “white replacement theory” or simply “replacement theory”.
In the USA, there are sections of the Republican Party that have embraced this malignant theory, which represents a clear and present danger to each and every person in the minority. Undoubtedly, evil, hatred, and violence have sprung from the ideas of this theory.
We have witnessed the rise of xenophobia all across the United States of America. Simply Psychology states that xenophobia originates from the Greek word ‘xenos’, which means ‘foreign’ in the most standard definition, although it can also be interpreted as ‘guest’, depending on the context. It also originates from the word ‘phobos’, meaning phobia. Xenophobia is a general term which can be applied to any fear of someone who is different from the individual. It can often intersect with a person’s race, ethnicity, nationality, and any aspects that may be used to distinguish people as others.
Often there are overlaps between xenophobia and forms of prejudice, including racism and homophobia. There are two main types of xenophobia. One has to do with individuals who have culturally xenophobic views and may reject objects, traditions, or symbols which are associated with another group, for instance, clothing and music that is traditional for another culture and different languages. People who are culturally xenophobic may believe their own culture and traditions are superior to those belonging to other groups.
The other is immigrant xenophobia, which is characterised by the rejection of people or groups of people who are seen as not being a part of the society’s in group. Individuals with this type of xenophobia may consider people in their own social or cultural group as being superior to others, avoid places heavily populated by immigrants, or make negative comments about people who belong to other cultures or countries.
The cause of xenophobia can be complicated. Evolutionary psychologists argue that xenophobia may be a part of genetic behavioural heritage, in that, being fearful of outside groups protected ancestral humans from threat.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Not surprisingly, a counter ideology is always in place to temper racist ideologies such as the Great Replacement Theory.
In 2013, three female black organisers, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, created a black-centred political and movement-building project called Black Lives Matter.
Black Lives Matter began with a social media hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin back in 2012. The movement grew nationally in 2014 after the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York. Since then, it has established itself as a worldwide movement, particularly after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Most recently, the Black Lives Matter movement has spearheaded demonstrations worldwide protesting police brutality and systematic racism that overwhelmingly affects the black community. Race relations in the USA have always been contentious and combative. A significant number of controversial court rulings over the years have incensed the African-American community as justice is often viewed as a two-tiered system, one for the whites and one for blacks.
Many minorities are of the belief that the justice system is seen through the lens of Anglo-Saxon and as such blacks are disproportionately incarcerated in comparison to whites for similar crimes.
As people of colour we should not let our guards down for one moment as the intersection of race, gender, and politics continue to shape and influence differing opinions, some of which will be troubling and discriminatory. As we continue this journey we need to find avenues to navigate this shared interconnected global environment. We all belong to the same race, the human race.
In the words of Barack Obama, none of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight. Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race. We talk a lot about race. There’s no shortcut. And we don’t need more talk.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and/or gender issues. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.