The dangers of believing that white people are becoming a minority

This week, Sir Keir Starmer appeared on LBC with presenter Nick Ferrari, where a white female caller lamented white people supposedly becoming a minority.

In the controversial chat – which left many urging an apology from the Labour leader – the caller said: ‘If anything, the racial inequality is now against the indigenous people of Britain, because we are set to become a minority by 2066’.

Some people called this comment out for prescribing to the far-right white supremacist conspiracy – the great replacement theory (GRT) – which claims that white people are becoming a minority in the West – often dubbed ‘white genocide’.

This anxiety has come up various times in history, including in Enoch Powell’s infamous 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, in which he wrote about immigration as being ‘like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre’,

In 2011, the French philosopher Renaud Camus propagated the theory that France’s elites were endangering white Europeans through mass migration of minorities, particularly, Muslims.

Camus called the pattern ‘reverse colonisation’ – an idea that has endured in the past decade, winning the support of far-right extremists including Christchurch killer Brenton Tarrant and Anders Breivik in Olso before him. Both wrote manifestos expressing these ideas – Tarrant’s was entitled The Great Replacement.

Just last year, Patrick Crusius, killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas, citing ‘Hispanic invasion’ of the state.

Within these conspiracy theories, there are also anti-semitic dimensions, with some followers believing that Jewish people are engineering immigration changes by allowing an ‘invasion’ of migrants.

Worries about the scale of migration are widespread throughout the general population of the UK.

58% of British citizens believe the Government is hiding the true cost of immigration to taxpayers and society, according to 2018 research by the Henry Jackson Society. 

Immigration has remained a hot topic for Brits through the ages, with an ever-exaggerated fear of white-flight recurring in the mainstream news agenda.

But, says PHD researcher Annie Kelly, great replacement theory is essentially a ‘genocidal rhetoric.’ Annie is studying  digital cultures on antifeminism and the far right in the U.S and says the GRT reimagines immigration completely, as a threat.

‘GRT reconfigures peaceful movements of people, something which has happened for the entire course of human history, as an existential threat,’ she tells us. ‘So, the Christchurch shooter, for example, left a manifesto in which he imagined the massacre as an essential act of “self-defence” against an invading people. GRT is a baked-in justification for such acts of terror in the white supremacist mind.’

It’s not just anti-immigration, anti-semitism and Islamophobia that form the core basis of GRT, there are also layers of misogyny within the sentiment.

Many who believe in the GRT attribute dwindling birth rates of white people to women, adds Annie.

She says: ‘The great replacement conspiracy theory relates to feminism in that it specifically focuses on trends in immigration and gender equality as threats to a mythic past of peaceful white homogenity.

‘So, immigrant women become configured as threats because of their potential to give birth to new generations (in the racist imagination, “replacing” the existing population). White women are also configured as culpable for this “replacement”, by having embraced feminism, seeking careers and having fewer children.

‘It’s worth noting that many adherents of the theory will claim that this was all socially engineered by Jewish people in order to destabilise the West.’

Of course, not all white people have this tension. There are also some people who are not afraid of becoming a minority but worry about what it will mean for them.

Luke, a white 22-year-old from the American midwest, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I’m not worried about being a racial minority but do worry about revenge (not in physical retaliation. What I mean by that is that minorities might, from their experiences – and rightly so – try to prevent the race that brought them oppression from ever having any power again.

‘From a logical point of view, I feel that this would be valid. There’s no reason that anyone who is in power would let a previous oppressor have a significant influence once again.

‘The sentiment I see everywhere nowadays is “white people = bad.” From a minority’s perspective, yeah I can understand that. From the majority’s perspective, it makes me wonder why people are targeting me for something I had nothing to do with.’

Luke appreciates that the remnants of slavery and oppression are still felt by ethnic minorities but he says we have come a long way since then. He has apprehensions about whether white people will ever be able to distance themselves from the past.

‘My worry is that this negative connotation with white people will forever attach itself and lead to a suppression of white people’s voices (it feels so weird typing that since that’s the most uneducated and privileged thing any white person could say nowadays) once they inevitably become a minority.

‘My fear is that the reactionary mindset we have now will not go away anytime soon and that once the power eventually shifts – which I believe it will in a generation or two – things will get out of hand even more than they are right now.’

Is it possible to change how we approach this discourse?

Research fellow Annie says: ‘I think digital far-right networks are certainly responsible for a lot of how GRT has become popularised as an expression, but I similarly think that mainstream news networks bear some responsibility – the far right frequently uses simplified headlines from news media to construct their radicalisation materials.’

Dr Rakib Ehsan, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society’s Centre on Radicalisation and Terrorism says a lot needs to be done.

He tells us: ‘Public authorities must step up their counter-disinformation efforts to combat the spread of racially-charged conspiracy theories in the online space, as well as investing more in grassroots community initiatives which help to build inter-ethnic bonds of trust and mutual respect.’

We’ve contacted LBC for comment and will update the article if a spokesperson responds.

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