Buffalo Shooting and California’s ‘Great Substitute’ Theory

It started in California and hasn’t stopped yet.

On Saturday, a heavily armed 18-year-old white man arrived at a supermarket in a predominantly black neighborhood of Buffalo, NY. .

He parked the vehicle and opened fire.

“This is the worst nightmare any community can face,” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said Saturday, “and we are hurting and boiling now.”

Like the mayor, most of the victims were black. Authorities say Payton Gendron, of Conklin, NY, killed at least 10 people and injured three others, some shoppers, others working at Tops Friendly Market.

Maddeningly, this violence can happen anywhere in the United States these days – and it often does.

But it’s the white supremacist explanation for it this time, uncovered in a manifesto that officials say Gendron sent, that must be very familiar to Californians.

He is adept at the so-called “great replacement” theory. According to officials, Gendron felt compelled to drive about 200 miles to shoot innocent black people indiscriminately with a high-powered rifle because white Americans are being “replaced” by people of color.

In many ways, this really ugly conspiracy theory has some roots right here in the Golden State of the 1990s.

That’s when Republicans, desperate to maintain political power, spread fear and paranoia about millions of Mexican immigrants wanting – how dare they! —resources and rights, and the inevitable decline of the state’s white population.

Those were the formative years of Stephen Miller, the Santa Monica native who grew up to become President Trump’s loathsome, immigrant-hating man.

Of course, the true origin of the “great replacement” theory is much older and inextricably linked to anti-Semitism, in which white supremacists blame Jews for non-white immigration. Hence, the chants of “Jews will not replace us” and “You will not replace us” by racists with torches the night before the Unite the Right rally in Virginia in 2017.

The version of the theory circulating now posits not only that America is becoming more diverse, which is absolutely true, but that some secret cabal of elite Democrats is conspiring to bring in immigrants in every way possible to “replace” Christians. white. people and reshape American politics into some sort of secular, multicultural liberal image. Like California.

Never mind that Latino voters are often conservative, as we saw in the 2020 presidential election, when Trump won a larger share of that demographic than he did in 2016.

never stop.

“Diversity is not a force,” wrote Gendron, according to excerpts from the manifest which authorities say he uploaded and are now floating around online. “Unity, purpose, trust, traditions, nationalism and racial nationalism is what provides strength.”

We now know from that manifesto that Gendron drove about 200 miles from his home to that supermarket in Buffalo because he was in a neighborhood with a lot of blacks, officials said.

Alongside racist and anti-immigrant rants, the manifesto exposed how he planned to kill as many black people as possible, officials said. That he would shoot the security near the entrance before shooting the black shoppers. That he’d studied the floor plan and knew every hallway. What would he eat for lunch.

The FBI is investigating what happened as a “racially motivated hate crime and violent extremism”. Erie County Sheriff John Garcia called the motive for the mass shooting “pure evil”.

It is also a pervasive white supremacist ideology that has gone mainstream.

Late last year, an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that about a third of American adults believe an effort is underway to “replace” US-born Americans with immigrants.

Furthermore, about 3 in 10 think that additional immigration will cause Native Americans, presumably white, to lose their economic, political and cultural influence.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to share these views, according to the poll. One reason is that irresponsible conservative pundits keep touting the “big replacement” theory as an explanation for everything from the loss of manufacturing jobs in the Midwest to a rise in overdose deaths among whites addicted to painkillers.

As Tucker Carlson said on Fox News last April: “I know the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter are literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, voters now voting, with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World. But they get hysterical because that’s what’s actually happening.”

It’s a lie, it’s ridiculous and it’s dangerous, especially in the age of social media. And yet it never stops – even here.

As usual, California was the first – in this case, the first forced state – to face these new population changes. Political rhetoric and paranoia about a supposed “replacement” were the reaction to this diversity and the accompanying drive for inclusion.

Many thought we were over it.

Now, decades later, when the rest of the country has started to look more like California, it’s pretty clear that it doesn’t.

You don’t even have to go to Buffalo. Just head into the Sierra foothills of Placer and El Dorado counties, and you’ll hear longtime white residents worrying about the “liberals” — aka people of color — of the San Francisco Bay Area moving to ” replace them”.

On Saturday, Reverend Al Sharpton urged the White House to hold a meeting with black, Jewish and Asian American leaders “to emphasize the federal government [is] stepping up its efforts against hate crimes.”

President Biden said the nation “must do everything in our power to end domestic hate-fueled terrorism” and called for a full investigation.

“A racially motivated hate crime is abhorrent to the very fabric of this nation,” Biden insisted, against all logic, reason and recorded history.

NAACP President Derrick Johnson declared that “hatred and racism have no place in America.”

Only time will tell if any of these statements will be more than the usual “thoughts and prayers”.

What is clear is that we cannot continue to treat acts of white supremacy as one-off crimes committed by alleged lone wolves suffering from mental health issues. Nor can we continue to give way to conservative experts and republican politicians who directly or indirectly encourage adherence to the “great replacement” theory or any other principle of racism or extremism.

We’ve seen what happens when we allow these things to happen. We saw it in California in the 1990s and its echoes linger here to this day.

A Buffalo city council member on Saturday described the supermarket where so many were killed as “a historic street for African Americans” in a tight-knit community just a few miles from downtown.

I have set foot in many of the best friendly markets in my life. The chain, which used to dot the corners of my hometown of Cleveland, was almost always full of black shoppers going about their business, worried about replacing the milk in their fridges, not people.

“The depth of pain that families are feeling,” said Mayor Brown, “and that we are all feeling right now cannot even be explained.”

Make it stop.

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