“It’s the birthrates, it’s the birthrates, it’s the birthrates.”
So reads the first line of the manifesto by Brenton Tarrant, the terrorist who slaughtered 51 Muslims at the Al Noor Mosque and a nearby cultural center in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March.
Throughout the screed, which he posted to the internet sewer known as 8chan shortly before his killing spree, Tarrant espoused portions of a theory known as the “Great Replacement.” It is a theory central to white nationalist thinking in the modern era, which holds that nonwhites and Muslims are reproducing at rates that will, along with immigration, eventually overrun white, Christian societies.
This same thinking, which often dovetails with the conspiracy theory that Jews and other “globalists” have orchestrated a plan to “genocide” whites, has been cited by white supremacists around the world in various forms. It was the basis for the chants of “You will not replace us,” and “Jews will not replace us,” which featured prominently in the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. And it has been articulated by politicians ranging from the European far-right to Iowa Representative Steve King.
Most recently, it occupied a central role in the manifesto of Patrick Crusius, who killed 22 people, most of them Latinx, in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
In each rendering, the principal fear is that whites are not reproducing at rates sufficient to maintain numerical (and thus, cultural) dominance in “our” nations, while the fecundity of racial and cultural “others” remains unchecked. Left to their own devices, they will overwhelm the West and bring down civilization as we know it.
There is an irony to the white nationalist paranoia concerning the “Great Replacement.” They may view the differential birth rates between women of color and whites as calamitous, but the gap is entirely a function of the very inequalities the far-right demands be kept in place. If white nationalists are so worried about “replacement,” there is a simple answer: A massive investment in opportunities for women of color for schooling and jobs, globally.
Women with access to education and better jobs have fewer kids, per capita, than women without such access. This is true for all ethnic and national groups at all times in history. It’s why immigrant working-class “whites” who came to the United States regularly had 5–10 kids but their descendants don’t. As white women gained opportunity, they reduced their birth rates, while women of color (still lagging in access due to systemic inequities — which so many right-wing politicians defend) have higher rates.
Equalizing educational access would bring down birth rates for poorer women of color very quickly. It’s why in the U.S., for instance, birth rates for black women with degrees are now equal to (or even slightly lower than) those for white women with degrees, and why black birth rates generally have fallen dramatically as opportunities have expanded.
Expanding opportunities for women of color would defeat the purpose of their entire politic, which is maintaining white male dominance.
But of course, the right will never call for wealthy nations to invest more in expanding opportunities for women of color, even though this would “solve” their stupid replacement fears regarding the demographic change. Likewise, they would never support a more equitable distribution of global resources to poorer nations, even though doing so would slow the migration patterns to so-called white countries, which are a function of global economic inequities.
The reason for white nationalists’ apparent inconsistency is simple: Demographic numbers aren’t their primary concern. Their real concern is about maintaining power and domination. Expanding opportunities for women of color would defeat the purpose of their entire politics, which is maintaining white male dominance. Even if white people retained a demographic majority in the culture if folks of color have equal opportunity, what good is a numerical advantage? Likewise, more equitable distribution of global resources, even though it would lessen the factors that spur migration, will never receive the support of white nationalists, and for the same reason. More equity means less dominance — and dominance, of the entire planet, is what they really desire.
Which then brings us to the link between the far-right’s racism and their misogyny. Rather than expand opportunities for women of color, which would solve their demographic “problem” by likely allowing white majorities to be maintained throughout Europe and the U.S. — but result in more equity both racially and in terms of sex or gender, which they fear — they advocate restricting opportunities for white women. They want “traditional families,” so white women have to bow to them too.
And if white women don’t have opportunities, presumably, they will start making white babies again and solve the demographic “problem” that way. In other words, they just want hegemony. They want to control people of color and white women for their own benefit.
It’s not about demographic numbers, because that could be addressed by prioritizing greater equality. Inequality is what drives the very phenomenon they now fear. But they can’t give up inequality because they are dependent on it for their own sense of importance. Inequality of opportunity is the only thing that allows them to remain on top, and they know it. Forced to compete fairly and equitably against people of color and women of all colors, they realize they would often lose, so they prefer to rig the game.
It’s the only way they can maintain the relative benefits — the privileges and advantages — afforded by their whiteness and maleness: benefits to which they are addicted, even as they deny their existence. They want power at the expense of everyone who isn’t white and male, and they are willing to use violence to maintain it.
It is up to those of us who value pluralism and multiracial democracy to ensure that this power — the power to oppress and dominate — is denied them.
. . .
I’m an antiracism educator/author. I Facebook & tweet @timjacobwise, podcast at Speak Out With Tim Wise & post bonus content at patreon.com/speakoutwithtimwise
Previously published on Medium.com.
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