Be careful and watchful, my Kentucky friends. The replacement theory conspiracy rhetoric is dangerous and has been around for decades. It can and has led to death and destruction and there is no reason to believe that is not where it is heading today.
On August 6, 1855, in Louisville, Kentucky, we tasted the venom spread by replacement theorists as Protestant mobs attacked neighborhoods in the city occupied by Irish and German Catholics. Twenty-two people died. Many more were affected. Houses were pillaged and burned. Businesses were destroyed.
The instigators were members of the Nativist Know-Nothing party, officially known as The American Party. The members of this insidious group were radical, anti-immigrant espousers who were afraid of the impact of the new immigrants from Germany and Ireland. Like today’s perverse version of replacement theory, there was sentiment that somehow the addition of Irish (Irish immigrants were portrayed in newspapers as “Wild Beasts”) and German immigrants to the Louisville community would displace the predominant white, Protestant majority and the power they wielded.
This day, August 6, 1855, is known as Bloody Monday and there is a historical marker commemorating it on West Main Street in Louisville. Such a marker is designed to help us remember the shameful acts that occurred on that fateful election day. The Know-Nothing Party members wanted to prevent and discourage the new citizens from exercising their right to vote.
If any of this sounds familiar, it is because there is a growing movement in the United States that resembles the dangerous beliefs of the Know-Nothing party. Restricting and limiting voting rights of people of color is just one aspect of this. Building an expensive wall to deter immigration is another. Discriminating against Brown and Black citizens fearing their growing power which could displace the predominantly white majority is the foundation of this ill-informed movement.
We are seeing violence on the rise as people are led to believe false conspiracies and fabricated replacement theories. This cannot be ignored or else we will be witnessing Bloody Mondays again and again across the country. So, friends, when possible, heed the warning, debunk the false theories and embrace what is great about this country—the contributions of so many from a variety of different countries and places of origin.
Rev. Dean W. Bucalos is a retired minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and former executive director of Mission Behind Bars and Beyond (MB3) an ecumenical non-profit that assists returning citizens.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: How dangerous replacement theory rhetoric has been around for decades