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Unpacking America’s history with “replacement theory” is complicated

Flowers are left at a makeshift memorial outside of Tops market in Buffalo, New York.
Flowers are left at a makeshift memorial outside of Tops market in Buffalo, New York.

Buffalo residents continue to mourn the ten people killed at the Tops grocery store by a white supremacist last weekend.

President Joe Biden discussed the racist ideology that motivated the shooter during his visit to Buffalo earlier this week, saying, “Hate that through the media, politics and the internet has radicalized, angered, alienated and isolated individuals into falsely believing they will be replaced by the other.”

“Replacement theory” has been used as justification in previous mass shooting events, including at the Christchurch Mosque shooting in New Zealand. It’s been referenced by Fox News Host Tucker Carlson hundreds of times according to a New York Times investigation and been echoed by Republican lawmakers. 

The ideology behind replacement theory dates back to the early 20th century and is referenced in classic works such as “The Great Gatsby.”

We examine the role this ideology has in American policy and its spread in U.S. media.

Copyright 2022 WAMU 88.5

Chris Remington