The Theory Behind That Charlottesville Slogan
‘The Jews will not replace us,’ they chanted. What do they mean, ‘replace us’?
When white nationalists and supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, Va., last summer, they marched with tiki torches and chanted: “The Jews will not replace us.” Obviously they don’t care for Jews. But what do they mean, “replace us”?
Understanding the chant requires an examination of the work of Kevin B. MacDonald, a 74-year-old psychologist and retired professor at California State University, Long Beach. Mr. MacDonald’s theories about Jews have become the philosophical and theoretical inspiration for white supremacist and nationalist movements.
Mr. MacDonald characterizes Jewish behavior in terms of the theory of group evolutionary psychology, based on competition among groups for resources and survival. Most scholars of evolutionary psychology reject Mr. MacDonald’s methods and conclusions. White nationalists and supremacists embrace him, and he returns their affection. He edits a website called Occidental Observer that focuses on “White Identity, Interests and Culture.”
Mr. MacDonald claims that Jewish traits, such as high verbal intelligence and ethnocentrism, have evolved to the point that Jews, as a group, outcompete non-Jews at the expense of Christian majorities.
He further argues that Jews are genetically programmed to undermine Christian civilization. Intellectual movements such as multiculturalism and liberalism serve, in his view, to heighten Jewish advantage because a Christian majority mired in a multicultural society is less likely to foster anti-Semitism.
Which brings us to his explanation of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. Mr. MacDonald claims that Jewish communal organizations led the effort to enact the law, which eliminated preferential quotas for Western European immigration and increased the total number of immigrants. That led to an increase in non-European immigration. In Mr. MacDonald’s view, the act started the “replacement” of white Christians by a more ethnically diverse population.
It is true that Jewish communal organizations are major supporters of multiculturalism. Then again, so are most mainstream churches, on both sides of the papal divide. Christian communal groups loudly extol their commitment to inclusion and diversity.
But Jewish leadership was neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for the passage of the 1965 immigration law. Rather, a liberalizing wave had already swept the West in the decades after World War II, bringing an end to colonialism and informing U.S. competition with the Soviet Union. In this context, America’s 1924 immigration law, which favored Western European immigration, had become an international embarrassment.
As early as 1952, President Harry Truman appointed a Commission on Immigration and Naturalization, whose report served as the foundation for the 1965 act. The report affirmed the country’s need for workers, but and it was highly critical of the foreign-policy problems caused by the then-current immigration policy. The report specifically cited Radio Moscow’s use of America’s exclusionary immigration policy to spread anti-Americanism in Asia, especially Korea.
The 1965 law’s chief sponsors were Sen. Philip Hart of Michigan and Rep. Emanuel Celler. Hart was Catholic; Celler had three Jewish grandparents and one Catholic one. Would Mr. MacDonald say Celler’s Jewish and Catholic genes were in conflict over immigration policy?
One of the most significant provisions of the act allowed chain migration, in which immigrants sponsor family members to come to America. Rep. Michael A. Feighan of Ohio, a conservative Democrat and Catholic, was responsible for this measure. He saw chain migration as promoting family values.
The bill passed overwhelmingly, with support from 85% of Republicans and 74% of Democrats. Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Catholic, was a major proponent and legislative orchestrator of the bill. President Lyndon Johnson, who belonged to the Disciples of Christ, signed the bill at the Statue of Liberty. Jewish support was not the key to its passage. The bill was widely popular—and more so with Republicans, even though most Jews, then as now, were Democrats.
Mr. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.