ARCC News – How Replacement Theory Harms Latinx Immigrants and Refugees

This month, we are excited to share “ARCC News” and an original article on Replacement Theory.

October 2022

How Replacement Theory Harms Latinx Immigrants and Refugees

If you’re interested in how political rhetoric works or consume your news through certain social media platforms, you may have heard of replacement theory (not to be confused with critical race theory). Americans who are encountering this ideology for the first time may understandably be wondering what exactly it is and does. Here’s what you need to know about replacement theory and how it harms Latinx immigrants and refugees to the US, among other marginalized groups.

What Is Replacement Theory?

Replacement theory is a racist and xenophobic conspiracy theory currently active in Europe and the US. It originated from twentieth century French nationalist writers who influenced Renaud Camus, author of a 2012 book called Le Grand Remplacement (The Great Replacement). In it, he argues that non-white immigrants are invading Europe and replacing white Europeans to the point of extinction. His theory—in name and spirit, if not necessarily readership—took notable hold among Western white supremacists in the 2010s and onward.

Replacement theory has been embraced in Europe, North America, and elsewhere by prominent far-right politicians and (in the US) unreliable news outlets and media personalities. Because of these and other influences, the theory is now so pervasive that it is currently believed by 1 in 3 Americans. Since American white supremacists frequently also have antisemitic leanings, their vitriol toward non-white immigrants has often been directed at Jewish communities as well.

Another American twist to this racist ideology is the false belief that the Democratic Party is encouraging immigration to the US from Latin American countries as part of a plot to replace white Republican voters with purportedly more docile Latinx ones. Because Latin American refugees and immigrants represent the greatest portion (roughly half) of all migrants to the US, replacement theory results in the widespread further endangerment of already vulnerable Latinx individuals and families, many of whom have risked their health and lives to move to the US.

How Replacement Theory Endangers Vulnerable Latinx Immigrants and Refugees

Here are just a few major ways that replacement theory endangers Latinx immigrants and refugees.

Fueling Racial Violence in the US

Replacement theory has not only fueled racist political furor, but has actually spurred many white supremacists to commit mass murders that specifically target Jews and Americans of color, including Latinx people. Many of these killers cite the theory by name as a strong factor in their motivation. The El Paso massacre of 2019 brought about the greatest loss of Latinx life by murder in modern history. In that year alone, 527 anti-Hispanic hate crimes were committed in continuation of an increasingly upward trend.

In fact, the US has a long history of anti-Hispanic and anti-Latinx violence that dates back to the 1800s, when white settlers in Texas forcibly displaced Mexican landowners and indigenous people in the wake of the Texas Revolution and the Mexican-American War. In the early 1900s, 15 Mexican Americans were massacred by Texas Rangers as part of government-sanctioned efforts toward US border control.

Since then, anti-Latinx “invasion” rhetoric has played a significant role in Mexican American voter suppression, forced sterilization, mass deportations (including of US citizens), and other atrocities.

Negatively Impacting US Immigration Policy

Right-wing politicians who embrace replacement theory all too frequently leverage its rhetorical poison for the purpose of fomenting unified voter hatred and growing their own supporter base. This is dangerous both because of the power their constituents have in keeping them in office and the power such politicians wield in creating anti-immigration laws and policies. Rather than protecting Americans, many of these policies only achieve the persecution of Latinx populations, who are often themselves fleeing extreme violence and poverty in their countries of origin.

As just one example, the Trump administration extended border patrol powers beyond federal officials to state and local law enforcement. This led to the expanded capture, detainment, and deportation of Latinx immigrants and refugees and, in the process, gross human rights abuses. Anti-Latinx and anti-immigration policies additionally lead to the trauma and poor overall health of individuals and families. Among these outcomes are severe anxiety, depression, mistrust, and barred access to essential services, such as medical care.

Driving Non-White Voter Suppression

Xenophobia toward Latin American communities additionally results in the voter suppression of Latinx US citizens and other Americans of color. In the early 1900s, voting restrictions openly declared their intent to block the “ignorant Mexican vote.” Today, right-wing politicians use equally unethical methods (such as English-only ballots, monthly citizenship checks, and bans on mail-in or drive-through voting) to prevent legal voters from casting their ballots.

Replacement theory causes many other forms of harm to Latinx immigrants and refugees as well as to those of other nationalities. You can help to fight the prevalence of this xenophobic conspiracy theory by educating others about it, voting for antiracist and antidiscriminatory legislation and policies, and by supporting nonprofit organizations that work toward eradicating racism.

Debunk Replacement Theory With ARCC

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