~ 5 minutes read
Replacement theory is in the news after a shooter cited the theory as his motivation for opening fire in a grocery store in Buffalo over the weekend, killing 10 and injuring three.
It’s important to remember that the vast majority of people who believe this theory do not think it justifies the Buffalo shooter’s actions. This doesn’t solve the dispute over replacement theory, but it’s important to keep in mind as we try to understand why someone else agrees/disagrees with the theory.
People agree that current trends in birth rates and immigration mean white people are becoming a minority in the US. What we disagree about is 1) what’s causing that trend and 2) what it means.
To those who disagree with replacement theory, it’s appalling that so many believe such a baseless, explicitly racist conspiracy theory. White people are becoming a minority because of natural trends, not an intentional effort. Any white person who believes this theory is just nervous about being treated as poorly as they treat minorities now — but that racism will not be replicated.
To some who subscribe to replacement theory, the active effort to replace white people with non-white people amounts to intentional white genocide. Others who subscribe to the theory are generally unhappy or concerned that white people and culture are slowly disappearing from the country, but aren’t calling it white genocide.
When it comes to an issue that feels so directly threatening to people on both sides, it’s really hard to fathom existing in the same country as the people who disagree with you. So what does pluralism look like on this issue?
Pluralism offers us two choices when we encounter disagreement: respectfully engage or respectfully disengage.
Despite what we’re told, if talking about the topic diminishes your ability to fulfill your responsibilities by damaging your mental health or causing anxiety, respectfully disengaging is a good option. Given the fact that political debates rarely end up changing anyone’s mind, the choice to disengage can often be effective in making the world a better place, because you’ll have the time and energy to take care of yourself and your community.
If you feel called to engage, it’s critical that you make an effort to understand the other side within their own terms. This doesn’t mean agreeing with them, nor does it mean we cannot be offended by their views. But if you choose to engage with someone who disagrees with you on this or any issue, it often does more harm than good when we refuse to listen to their views, motivations, and concerns. Conversations that don’t start with trying to understand the other person within their own terms will only lead to further frustration and polarization by reinforcing our worst ideas about the other.
Finally, remember that when we engage in conversations where our starting positions are very far apart, it’s unreasonable to expect the other person to agree with you on everything by the end, even if you approach the conversation in the best way possible. Be patient, and remember that every person’s views are shaped by a complex web of experiences and values, many of which you won’t agree with.