Great Replacement and Replacement Theory: What These Terms Mean

Cathedral Church of St. Luke

In the wake of the Buffalo tragedy, the terms the ‘Great Replacement’ and ‘Replacement Theory’ have been surfacing in the news, frequently by some political pundits such as Tucker Carlson, while also including some rhetoric by those who would try and soften their meanings.

These terms were created by French conspiracy theorist Renaud Camus about a decade ago. Camus, a white nationalist, coined the terms as he discussed immigrants of color as threats to white French identity and that these immigrants would “replace” the true French.

However, the idea of whites being displaced by immigrants and people of color can be traced much earlier in the United States to the eugenics, or ‘racial hygiene,’ movement of the early 20th century. This was reflected in the immigration laws during that time.
Many people are unaware of the influence the eugenics movement in the U.S. had on Adolf Hitler and his desire to create a white, master race. The influence of this idea of replacement still impacts policy today as seen in the immigration policies of the previous presidential administration and is reflected in the views of some who currently serve in Congress.

Many perpetrators of racially-motivated hate crimes in the US, such as in Buffalo, espouse replacement theory, as do participants at rallies such as “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville in 2017. It is also a cornerstone of the ideologies of white supremacist and neo-Nazi hate groups. This theory is counter to the Episcopal Church’s policies surrounding immigration, which specifically “urge(s) the US government to apply its refugee policies in a uniform and equitable manner without regard to the nationality, race or creed of those seeking refugee status.”

For those interested, additional readings are listed below.