American White Nationalists Follow After the French and They Don’t Even Know It

The American appreciation for French culture is nothing new in the United States. Founding fathers, like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, spent many years in France during the French Enlightenment. A Frenchman, the Marquis de Lafayette, even aided in America’s triumph over Britain in the American Revolution. Americans eat macarons, go to the ballet, buy from French brands, look at French art, and many even briefly studied the language in high school or college. This is just a small list of French representation in our daily lives. 

In a New Yorker article from 2017 entitled “The French Origins of ‘You Will Not Replace Us’,” Thomas Chatterton Williams unveils white supremacy’s European origins. He interviews Renaud Camus, a man who has come to be associated with his phrase “le grand remplacement”, the title of his pessimistic book. He argues in his book that there is a reverse-colonization occurring in France by brown and black immigrants. Camus believes there is a demographic threat being posed on Europeans. He discusses the move of immigrants from the banlieu to the city, saying his problem is not, “that the religious symbolism of the veil clashed with some of the country’s most cherished secularist principles; it was that the veil wearers were permanent interlopers in Camus’s homeland.” 

Related: Reflecting on Charlottesville

Sound familiar? At the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, former Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke said the rally was, “a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We're going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”

Some of the slogans used in the rally included: “You will not replace us!”, “Our blood, our soil!”, “Jews will not replace us!”

The French anxiety about immigration did not begin with Camus. It has long existed and has even been bluntly addressed by France’s biggest leaders. Charles de Gaulle said in a 1959 letter:

“It is very good that there are yellow Frenchmen, black Frenchmen, brown Frenchmen. They prove that France is open to all races and that she has a universal mission. But [it is good] on condition that they remain a small minority. Otherwise, France would no longer be France.”

Related: White Nationalists and Free Speech

American and French white nationalists alike value national identity over the amelioration and diversity of their respective country. This mindset is especially dangerous considering these individuals have been lucky enough to have been born in a democracy where their livelihood and survivorship is ultimately not jeopardized. American nationalists would do good to note that the United States is a country founded on immigration.

More times than not, when people with white nationalist beliefs are asked about European immigrants, their response is positive and it’s apparent that they do not seem threatened by them. This says that they only feel that their culture is being distorted when non-Christian, non-white, or differing ethnic background immigrants are integrating into their society. The fact that recent white supremacist events use this French ideology without knowing (and without caring) where it came from is an example of their contradictory ideas. Do they care about “keeping America American,” or do they solely care about keeping America white and Christian? 

Related: Virginia Gun Rights Rally: What Went Down

In a powerful conclusion to his article, Williams wrote:

“On August 11th [2017], the Unite the Right procession marched through the campus of the University of Virginia. White-supremacist protesters mashed together Nazi and Confederate iconography while chanting variations of Renaud Camus’s grand remplacement credo: “You will not replace us”; “Jews will not replace us.” Few, if any, of these khaki-clad young men had likely heard of Guillaume Faye, Renaud Camus, or Alain de Benoist. They didn’t know that their rhetoric had been imported from France, like some dusty wine. But they didn’t need to. All they had to do was pick up the tiki torches and light them.”