Payton Gendron, a 18-year-old male who openly expressed his belief in "white replacement theory," has been charged with killing 10 people – all of them Black – during a May 14 mass shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.
Ever since then, the news coverage has been inundated with commentary as to who, in addition to the shooter, is responsible for what happened. In other words, who else has blood on their hands?
Predictably, all of those accused of enabling the bloodshed have denied that they did so – or they have said next to nothing at all. Indeed some of those under scrutiny – including various members of the Republican Party – have trotted out responses ranging from openly professing that they don't condone violence to loudly blaming the Democratic Party's policies for what took place in Buffalo.
Let's give these figures the benefit of the doubt and assume that, of course, they don't actively support violence. But let's also not dismiss the reality that the toxic words these figures frequently utter – at rally speeches, on nightly cable shows and through other public platforms – can serve as inspiration for loose cannons, unstable people and hardened racists who are only too happy to use right-wing diatribes as calls to act in violent fashion.
That's why it's truly disturbing that so many polls show huge numbers of self-identifying Republicans actually believe in white replacement theory. It's an absurd philosophy that proclaims that if we don’t shut our gates and build walls to stop immigration from Central America, South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, well, then, the nonwhite folks coming into our country will soon replace white people – who, in turn, will no longer make up the majority in America.
First of all, this theory is as flawed as it is blatantly racist. America is a nation of immigrants and, as a consequence, our demographics have always been shifting as new people – driven by necessity or attracted by the shining light of freedom emanating from the torch of Miss Liberty – sail, fly or flee to our borders. If this was the magnet that drew so many of our ancestors to America, why would it not draw other people today?
In fact, the only "replacement" process to take place in America occurred when white settlers started arriving during the 17th century – and soon began slaughtering Native Americans and throwing them off of their established lands. Other than that, while it's true that each wave of new arrivals to America over the centuries has been met with some degree of resistance, the people who were already in the United States were never forced to leave to make room for the newcomers. In short, no one was "replaced."
Obviously, then, there is no logic to white replacement theory. It is merely the product of racist attitudes fueled by those who fearfully say to themselves: "Oh, my God, 30 years from now we whites will no longer be the majority in this country!"
And? So what’s the problem with that?
Yes – due to various demographic factors and trends – there may well be a day soon when white Americans like me will no longer represent the majority in America. So what? Maybe then we won’t rush to judge or treat people differently simply because of their skin tone. How bad would that be?
I don’t mean to be flippant here. After all, there are some serious questions to be raised. Questions like:
Why are some people so afraid of not being the majority race in America anymore? Could it be an admission that being a minority in America results in you not being treated well? Or fairly? Or equitably? Or that it results in you being viewed in general as nothing more than a second-class citizen?
Maybe those of us who are white Americans can start to rectify this. Maybe more of us should decide right now to stop supporting politicians and media personalities who pollute our culture with fear and animosity toward those who pray, speak or just look differently from us.
Because if we don't do so, the kind of hatred that drove a white teen to kill 10 people – as part of some deranged attempt to keep America "pure" – may inevitably lead to blood on our own white hands as well.
Jerry Springer is a longtime nationally syndicated television talk show host who resides in Sarasota. Springer has a law degree from Northwestern University and served one term as the mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the host of "The Jerry Springer Podcast."
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Jerry Springer: White Americans must speak up against supremacists