Dog Whistle Politics - Fantastic!

 Ian Haney Lopez's DOG WHISTLE POLITICS: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism & Wrecked the Middle Class is a well referenced, detailed fantastic book.

Haney Lopez traces a recent history beginning largely with:  George Wallace, Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon through Ronald Reagan to when the book was written in 2014.   It is fascinating how the Black Lives Matter Movement and the rise and recent fall of Donald Trump - after the fact - strongly fit in with his conclusions.

Dog whistle politics are regular parts of Republican Party efforts.   Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also come up for significant criticism, though not as deeply as George W Bush and other Republicans in general.

The author makes clear how important it is for us to confront racism directly and deal with systemic racism, rather than incidents of blatant racist words.   He focuses significantly upon the dangers of "colorblindness".  He also makes clear how dog whistle politics help avoid effective dealing with power shifts towards the super-wealthy and away from the middle class.  Classism is very important in his message as white middle class and poorer lose out more and more, while falsely blaming Blacks, Mexican Americans and in recent years Muslim Americans.

Quotes from the book can help clarify the message. They follow:

Despite large public demonstrations protesting GOP extremism, Republicans have set to destroying liberal achievements with a vengeance, slashing funding to education, attacking unions, and gutting unemployment insurance, while ramping up efforts to further disenfranchise minority and working-class voters. (p.8)

Even during these decades, though, racial bogeymen varied by region, with Latinos in the Southwest, Asians in certain metropolitan areas, and Native Americans in the upper Midwest... (p.29)

Slavery ended in 1865,and without slavery to control them, blacks suddenly gave over to their criminal nature - or at least, that's the tale the South liked to tell, though even on its own terms it was hardly a consistent story.  During the slavery era, whites routinely depicted blacks as contented, happy, frivolous, and foolish - in short, in childish need of a paternalistic guardian in the form of an owner and master.   Concurrent narratives of dangerous lascivious blacks also existed, but the primary racial stereotypes painted blacks as joyfully enslaved.  Post-emancipation, these notions faded as more threatening stereotypes quickly gained currency.   Almost immediately, blacks came to be seen as wicked, vengeful, lust-filled, and violent - a menacing population prone to terrible crimes that had to be forcibly restrained.  ...

The Civil War and the forcible ending of slavery shattered the Southern economy, abruptly terminating a massive system of labor exploitation.  ...Southern states quickly seized on a loophole.  The constitutional amendment that banned slavery provided that "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime wherof the party shall have been dully convicted" ...

The heart of the system lay in leasing out convicts as laborers (6)  ...    This was no anomaly: "revenues from the neo-slavery poured the equivalent of tens of millions of dollars into the treasuries of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina...(p.38-9)

In a 2011 poll, more than half of whites thought that discrimination against their race  was "as big a problem" as the mistreatment of nonwhites. (p.102)

Thus the Democrats tended to strike a balance.  For white audiences , Clinton would moderately disparage blacks, yet would avoid the extreme tones sounded in the Willie Horton campaign or in reference to "welfare queens."  For black audiences, he would adopt a different tactic, employing a distinct sort of dog whistle: coded appeals to the black community designed to fly under most whites' radar.   (p.112)

In addition to the typical punch, parry, and kick of colorblind rhetoric, the local GOP leader behind the Obama Bucks episode also employed another defensive move increasingly typical of conservative race-talk: hiding behind a minority.  She couldn't possibly be racist, Fedele explained, since she had once supported a black conservative for president - namely Alan Keyes, famous among other reasons for opposing sanctions against apartheid South Africa and for filing suit in 2008 to force Obama to prove his U.S. citizenship.(25) Under a rightwing version of affirmative action, conservatives push forward nonwhite spokespersons as a shield against accusations of racism.  (p.137)

On the right, colorblindness operates like a weapon, picked up when opportune but set aside when inconvenient.   Witness in this respect Bolick's quick aboutface from using race to boost Thomas to condemning race-consciousness to defeat Lani Guinier. (p.141)

That Obama framed his colleague's sentiments in the heavily laden language of "white guilt" should give us pause.  Often when whites use that rhetoric, they make two moves.  First they deploy "guilt" to suggest a notion of individual culpability, and then deny that they bear any personal responsibility for past racism.  This move sidesteps the fact that many whites continue to benefit from persistent social inequalities produced by past and present racism: more fundamentally, it also misrepresents the issue, which is not one of personal guilt (anymore than  it is of personal bigotry), so much as a sacred social obligation to remedy injustice.  Then, in the second maneuver, after painting themselves as innocent individuals, whites wielding the language of guilt often portray themselves as victims - subject to emotional blackmail by unscrupulous minorities. (p.202-3)

This book provides a strong push to get white people to talk seriously about race far more frequently than we do.   He indicates that we need to confront the efforts primarily from white conservative/Republican Party leaders that are destroying what democracy we have had.   He details how Dog Whistle Politics help the very wealthy become wealthier>  Their increasing  is at the expense of middle class and poorer people (most significantly BIPOC People).   

I highly recommend reading this book!


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