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“The Great Replacement Theory” is a lie. It is also a threat to schools (opinion)

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Last Friday, America went through its latest experience with racial hatred. An 18-year-old alleged gunman drove more than 200 miles to a grocery store in a predominantly black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. Dressed in military tactical gear and body armor that included a helmet with a video camera, the attacker opened fire in a parking lot, killing three before running into a store, and killing 10 more, according to official figures. Of the 13 victims, 11 were black. This is an American horror story.

It turns out the suspected shooter is deeply immersed in promoting white supremacy. In particular, the alleged mass murderer came to embrace what white nationalists call “great replacement theory», Or GRT.

Following the conspiracy announced by the French novelist Reno Camus, GRT is a concept that representatives of white ethnic groups in developed countries are “replaced” by people of color. This replacement is facilitated by “substitute elites” who are involved in a larger project to promote demographic change, primarily through immigration and birth control. He paints an empirically false, sensational picture of white citizens being threatened by social and political domination.

The lack of trust in GRT, however, does not prevent this idea from becoming an obstacle for our teachers, school administrators and our education policymakers. While GRT’s fears are unfounded, the concerted attack on black Americans, and especially black children in schools, is quite real.

According to the FBI The crime of 2020statistical report, we have experienced the highest number of hate crimes in the last ten years. Many crimes were related to race, and black Americans were the group most likely target. USA Public Accountability Service found the same trend in public schools in 2018; Hate speech and hate crimes were usually racially motivated and aimed at black students and other colored students. More than 10,000 of these hate crimes involved gun attacks – more than twice as many as the previous year. This is the cost of spreading false ideas like GRT.

The consequences of these hateful stories are not limited to physical violence. While white nationalist ideologies continue to motivate crimes based on racial hatred, school strategies aimed at undermining the spread of racial hatred are being attacked at the political level. At least for now 17 states signed bills or resolutions restricting the ability of teachers to teach race or discuss racial issues. This means that teachers can be fired or even sued if attitudes towards race in the lesson plan make parents feel uncomfortable.

And it’s not just teachers who are vulnerable. In Georgia, for example, a ban at the school level makes school administrators vulnerable.

There are still policy changes along the way. At least 11 more states have bills in their chambers that are at various stages of the legislative process. By 2023, most states may well have introduced some sort of ban that would essentially jeopardize teachers ’careers if they discuss race with their students.

This policy has real implications. Children have access to all sorts of dangerous ideas – such as the great theory of substitution – that contribute to the benefits of whites and racial violence. There is evidence that the Buffalo shooting suspect wrote an entire manifesto declaring himself a fascist and a supporter of white supremacy, which was radicalized by information on the internet. He acted on what he studied.

There is good news. There is the whole area of ​​empirical research believing that anti-racist teaching lowers students ’prejudices. We have the tools to stop this. But how can we prevent another Buffalo-like tragedy when teachers face threats while teaching about race?

Dangerous conspiracy ideas such as big replacement theory are likely to continue to spread. White nationalists and proponents of white supremacy will continue to target the American education system with particular contempt. There were both blue and red states invest more in educationby allocating more and more resources to support students with disabilities and working to reduce gaps in academic performance and opportunities. Some will see this progress as a threat.

We cannot let them win.

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