We will not replace you
What Flipping the Script on the "You Will Not Replace Us" Chant Reveals
Flipping the script on the “You will not replace us” chant reveals, in case it needed to be more obvious to anyone in the United States (ahem, Mr. Trump) the driving force of white supremacy ampongst the mob that raided Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.
Just take a moment and consider this: can you imagine a Black Lives Matter group chanting, “You will not replace us”?
Can you imagine a group of people who use wheelchairs at a protest for better access to public transportation and yelling “You will not replace us”?
Can you imagine people at a Gay Pride parade yelling, “You will not replace us?” I remember in the 90s we yelled “You cannot erase us,” but that was because, well, read more here.
No, the “You will not replace us” chant can’t be flipped and still make any sense at all. Why? Because it’s a chant created by white supremacists. The chant reflects a mindset of white supremacy, in a country created under the conditions of white supremacy, conditions which continue to drive much of what happens from sea to shining sea in a nearly 300 year long legacy of white power-over. The chant is proof positive (in case you needed more proof, Mr. Trump) that every single member of that white supremacist mob on Friday and Saturday were there for one reason only – to stand on the ever-dwindling, narrowing, eroding bit of ideological land that they have been taught is their birthright, and to defend their quasi-patriotic generalizations and delusions with their guns and flags and angry words pointed into the night at anyone who might be out there. With cardboard shields and baseball helmets, these white supremacists delude themselves into thinking theirs is the province of noble warriors fulfilling a sacred charge to make a last stand. The danger these domestic terrorists feel they must protect themselves from is likely the person standing next to them. Not the people in front of them, or the people they are afraid will replace them.
For all the moments I watched these white supremacists with their torches, flags, shields, masks, and bad beards, I had to remind myself: I am not watching the past. I am watching now. This is today.
YOU ≠ WE
WE ≠ YOU
When they chanted, “You will not replace us,” I thought about just how many folks are included in that 2nd person singular or plural “You.”
First, “Jew.” The marchers themselves replaced the word “You” to sometimes shout, “Jew will not replace us.” To yell such a thing while yielding torches and wearing Nazi or KKK paraphernalia is surely meant to create images reminiscent of Hitler’s Third Reich and to invoke a support for similar white-power fascism here in the U.S. With its “Jews will not replace us” chant, the protestors showed that, as Martin Niemöller said, first they came for the Jews. Certainly, the entire spectacle is meant to remind everyone of the genocidal violence targeted at Jewish people since time immemorial, and how present it is in the modern era of white supremacy.
Who else is a part of the “you” in the “you will not replace us”?
Since the protestors kept chanting “White Lives Matter” (as if that was ever in doubt) the “you” in “You will not replace us” definitely includes African Americans, and anyone associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. Most of the hate-speech mob gathered in Charlottesville hardly needed any words at all to make it obvious that the “you will not replace us” included African Americans along with all people of color, thanks to their choice of KKK wardrobe, signage, and flags. The casually evil way that Mr. Trump compared “sides” and implied that a “Black lives matter” chant and the white-supremacist “White lives matter” chant were somehow equivalent will go down in history as one of the more vile associations a President has ever made, which is saying something, given the history of how U.S. Presidents have treated people of color throughout history. Since the “you” of “you will not replace us” is addressed at the Black Lives Matter movement, then it likely includes anyone who participates in the Anti-fa, and any protestors who stand with BLM or who show up to counter-protest white supremacists. Heather D. Heyer, may you rest in peace.
And, the “you” of course includes people from the LGBTQI community, as the video in this article helpfully demonstrates. It's tough for me to say more about it than that. And if you need a reason why, look up the Oregon Citizens Alliance. And know that I live in Oregon. And have, since the late 80s.
If history and experience count as evidence anymore, the 2nd singular/plural “you” as used by the white supremacists in Charlottesville includes many other folks, likely a dynamic and ever-growing list of who and what the “white man” needs protection from. Who knew that the mind and ego of the white supremacist was so fragile? Hmm, let’s see. Oh yeah. Everyone. Specifically, people of color, Jewish folks, LGBTQII people, people of non-Protestant and Catholic religions, immigrants, and oh, so many people the world over
In interviews, many white supremacists who raided Charlottesville said they did so because they felt the need to “save the white race.” The thing is, to truly save the white race, we can begin by giving the white supremacist mob in Charlottesville and everyone who agrees with them, tacitly or otherwise, exactly what they asked for in their “you will not replace us” chant: to not replace them. In fact, it is my sincere hope and life’s work to ensure that no one, ever, will replace these white supremacists.
The “you” that the white supremacists have defined will most definitely not replace the you that they are…wait, that’s a mouth full.
What I mean to say is, we will not replace you.
None of us want the kind of power you promote, a power based on genocide, fanaticism, fascism, intimidation, intolerance, ignorance and violence. We will not replace you, and we work so that in the future, the form of power you represent, a form of power that has spread over the globe while causing genocide, war and environmental disaster in its wake, will disappear from dominance among humans.
None of us want to be the living, modern-day actor of the moral failings of the past. We will not resurrect the most awful individual or mass forms of violence and oppression from the past and carry them out against our neighbors and fellow citizens of today. We will not replace you, and we work to ensure that your fascist, anti-semitic, racist beliefs will fade from acceptability and dominance forever.
We will not take up the arms you wield for the causes you spit into our faces. Instead, if we are born armed with the weapons of privilege that you use to ply your trade of hate, whether of race, gender, religion, or socio-economic, we choose to lay them down, or use them solely where we are able to dismantle the system of supremacy so that no one, ever, will replace you.
We will take up the power of the humanity we recognize in each other, in community, in solidarity across difference, in our ability to define the purpose and the practice of the United States of America. We work to make sure that no one replaces you, so that as you age, as your words fade from the headlines and your faces disappear from social media, no one will replace you.
You can join us, once you have a change of heart, spirit, mind and show clear commitment to heal and positively contribute. But remember:
We will not replace you.