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  • Reverend James Squire

Replacement Theory or Player Theory

An 18 years-old white racist shot and killed 10 people in a Buffalo, New York grocery store in the heart of a black community. He believed that there was a conspiracy that people of color are being brought to our country to “replace” white Americans. This conspiracy theory has been repeated often by right wing people, talking heads at Fox, as well as people in government. It is one of the basic ideas that supports white supremacy as well. Trump gave this replacement theory respectability when he commented about the protest by white supremacists on the University of Virginia campus that there were “good people on both sides.” We could hear people chant during the protest, “They will not replace us!” This referred to Jews as well.

I want to dig deep under this fear to see why this replacement theory has come to fruition. It is not a conspiracy but a fact that by 2044 white people will become one of the “major minority groups” in our nation. It isn’t a conspiracy as much as fact as white people have an older age structure compared to other races as well as lower birth rates and more deaths. That will be our new reality. I believe that a good many conspiracy theories are based, in part, on that fact and fear. Presently the percentage of white Americans is 57.8%. Remember that race is a social construct where only .01 percentage of my genetics is different from those of other races. We are much more alike biologically which is a fact lost on too many Americans.

Right now, Americans have been able to self-segregate meaning they can choose what groups that they want to be with and with those groups that they don’t want to be around. An irony is that churches are the most segregated places in America on Sunday mornings. As we approach 2044 this is going to be less and less so. When I bought the home that I live in, I didn’t pay attention to what racial groups would be in our neighborhood. It wasn’t until I took a course recently on Race that I realized that I live in an all-white neighborhood. When I was priest in charge of a church on Peaks Island in the middle of the Casco Bay in Maine for two summers, I knew that something was missing. It took me until the return trip home when I went through Hartford to realize that what I was missing was black people. I should have been better tuned in to that situation as well.

Replacement Theory has been fueled by social media. I wrote about this recently. Social Media has divided us as a nation as we could choose one way of seeing the world which matched our biases. This gave way to Confirmation Bias. Elon Musk’s tentative purchase of Twitter has people worried because of Trump’s ability to get his message out. We have learned recently he is planning to get back on even though he has his own Twitter like media platform.

Replacement Theory is also based on what Isabel Wilkerson writes about in her book, Caste, whose basic premise is that groups are more secure if they have someone to look down on. Hence the title, Caste. A caste system is a class structure that is determined by birth. That is why Critical Race theory which is an academic discipline is so threatening to white people who haven’t really learned what the theory is about. Any person who believes that racial systems of oppression haven’t been part of America is whistling in the dark.

Replacement Theory also advocates the need for the “other.” The “other” is anyone who is different from us. If we say “they”, we can always feel “we.” which is a powerful glue to hold any of the “isms” together. What I have found in life is that once I got to know someone who is different from me, all of the prejudice goes away. Keep in mind that there has to be a change of behavior before you can change harsh feelings for the “other.” Ask any Ukrainian how they feel about Russians, you are going to get an answer that, more than likely, may contain the word evil.

So, what’s the answer? We will always have individual races, but there is a growing percentage of interracial marriages that are occurring in the United States which was a finding of a Pew Research Study. It doesn’t mean that we have to marry someone outside of a racial group to bring about harmony. It does mean that the American attitude needs to keep growing in seeing that phenomenon as normal. One human being is marrying another. As past parent at EA, Jay Wright, would say, “Attitude” is everything. (It is the title of his book.) He wears a blue rubber bracelet on his wrist with one word, Attitude. It signals how he has had the incredible success coaching basketball at Villanova that he has had over the years. His attitude, but more important the attitude of his players, has made all the difference. This leads back to that great irony that there is more diversity work going on in sports teams than there is at churches on a Sunday morning. In fact, you never hear a great coach use the word, replacement. It’s not in their vocabulary. Everyone is important including the player on the bench who may enter the game and save the day.

The answer is to have a “Player Theory” not a Replacement Theory. I have played on many diverse sports means. Everyone wants to play. Everyone wants to make an important contribution. Everyone is in the huddle.

If you want to see what a “Player Theory” looks like in real life, watch the attached video below about a little-known island, Mauritius. I used the video in my ethics class at the end of our political ethics unit. Watch it. Please don’t say to yourself, “That would never work here because…” Dig deep and look for those deeper issues where no one is replaced and everyone is a player.

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