Poor white people

Come and let us pity white people. They are the real victims here.

That, in essence, is the battle cry that’s powered much of American politics for the last 30 years, the last 15 in particular. It has echoed from the halls of government to the set of Fox “News” to the far-flung strands of the world wide web.

Poor white people. They are being overrun by caravans when not murdered by illegals or terrorized by Muslims or tyrannized by masks or oppressed by vaccinations or canceled by culture or lied to by media or lied upon by media or cheated by elections or blamed by Blacks or vexed by “Press 1 for English.”

Or replaced — evicted from their God-ordained pre-eminence by “others” who will be obedient voters for the liberal left. So says the so-called “Great Replacement Theory,” which originated in the fever swamps of white supremacy and now has a regular megaphone on Fox, courtesy of Tucker Carlson.

But that hasn’t been his message alone. It’s also been the message of New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, would-be Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, of conservatism as a whole, in response to a demographic shift first forecast years ago: that by 2050, people of color will constitute a majority of the population. Where some of us saw in that prediction change and challenge, they saw the gains to be made by fomenting white panic.

Thus, it was shocking and painful, but also predictable, that a stupid white boy with a stated belief in the replacement theory allegedly walked into a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., on Saturday and shot 10 Black people to death. Indeed, this was no more surprising than last year’s massacre of Asians in Atlanta, 2019’s massacre of Latinos in El Paso or 2015’s massacre of African Americans at a church in Charleston, S.C. Panicked people do terrible things.

But yes, come and let us pity white people. Many certainly pity themselves.

That’s how you get a country where Critical Race Theory is banned by law, but you can learn Great Replacement Theory by turning on Fox. Where voting keeps getting harder and gun ownership easier. Where Colin Kaepernick is unemployed and Carlson is not.

Speaking of which, he addressed the shooting Monday on his show, somehow managing to blame “professional Democrats” without once mentioning the racist theory that he and the alleged shooter both happen to believe.

Garnell Whitfield Jr. was also on television that day. In a grief-tattered voice, he spoke of his family’s anguish at the loss of his 86-year-old mother, Ruth, who died in the shooting. “But we’re not just hurtin’,” he said. “We’re angry. This shouldn’t have happened. We do our best to be good citizens, to be good people. We believe in God. We trust Him. We treat people with decency and we love even our enemies. And you expect us to keep doing this over and over and over again. Forgive and forget. While the people we elect and trust in offices around this country do their best not to protect us, not to consider us equal, not to love us back.”

And suddenly, you knew he was speaking out of a bereft exhaustion that encompassed not just him and his family but all of us who have been betrayed by America and its dream. “What are we supposed to do with all of this anger,” he pleaded, “with all of this pain?”

The question resonated, as it has for years unending. And, as for years unending, no answer immediately presented itself.

But yeah, sure, let’s pity white people. Let’s never forget who the real victims are.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Email him at lpitts@miamiherald.com.