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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Weekend Reader: ‘Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism And Wrecked The Middle Class’

Weekend Reader: ‘Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism And Wrecked The Middle Class’

Today the Weekend Reader brings you Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class by Ian Haney López, Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley where he focuses on racial justice in American law. In Dog Whistle PoliticsLópez outlines the connection between modern racism and an unstable middle class. Republicans gain votes from wealthy white Americans by using hinted-at (and sometimes blatant) racism. Republican leaders promise to put an end to undocumented immigration, they promote Islamophobia, devote themselves to slashing crime, and campaign on creating more opportunity for the middle class, all in an effort to gain the approval of white people who will vote Republican despite their best interests. In actuality, once elected, these leaders do the exact opposite—giving more opportunities to corporations, cutting taxes for the wealthy, and limiting social services. 

You can purchase the book here.

In the final month of the 2008 presidential campaign, a newsletter distributed by a local California Republican group claimed that if Obama was elected his image would appear on food stamps, instead of on dollar bills like other presidents. The broadside featured a phony $10 bill, now relabeled as “Ten Dollars Obama Bucks” in seals on each corner. In the middle, superimposed on the body of a donkey, was Obama’s face, eyes twinkling and with a wide grin. Above that, the mock bill read “United States Food Stamps.” Rounding out the racial parody, on the left there was a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and a slab of ribs; on the right, a pitcher of Kool Aid and a large slice of watermelon.

In the swirl of controversy that erupted, the group’s president, Diane Fedele, accepted responsibility for circulating the cartoon, which she had received in a number of chain e-mails before she decided to reprint it, and she was quick to apologize: “I absolutely apologize to anyone who was offended. That clearly wasn’t my attempt.” She was, nevertheless, just a little befuddled by the outrage.

In what way could this be construed as racist, she wondered? Nothing about the imagery suggested race, she explained, as fried chicken and ribs, Kool Aid and watermelon were “just food.” “I didn’t see it the way that it’s being taken. I never connected,” she said. “It was just food to me. It didn’t mean anything else.” Fedele also said she was making no effort to connect Obama to welfare, or to food stamps in particular. Yet her text introducing the cartoon said “If elected, what bill would he be on????? Food Stamps, what else!”

What, then, was the intent behind circulating the cartoon? Fedele claimed she meant to criticize Obama—ironically, for nothing less than injecting race into the presidential campaign. Over the summer Obama had warned an audience in Springfield, Missouri, that John McCain’s campaign might stoop to scare tactics, charging: “Nobody really thinks that Bush or McCain have a real answer for the challenges we face, so what they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know, he’s not patriotic enough. He’s got a funny name. You know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills. You know, he’s risky.”

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Fedele was incensed. “I thought his statement was outrageous and uncalled for and inappropriate and everything else I can think to call it.” According to a local reporter, Fedele circulated the cartoon “to criticize Obama for saying over the summer that he doesn’t look like the presidents whose images are on dollar bills. She said she didn’t think it was appropriate for him to draw attention to his race.”

One more detail deserves to be mentioned before we step back to assess this contretemps. The cartoon’s original creator was a liberal blogger who held a minor position with the Minnesota Democratic Party and who planned to vote for Obama. He created the cartoon and posted it on his website “to lampoon Republicans who are afraid of government welfare programs and fearful of a Democratic president. He said that ‘there’s some people that are never going to get it.’ ” He was more right than he knew, as apparently many of those he sought to lampoon instead embraced and circulated his cartoon as a biting impeachment of Obama.

Punch, Parry, and Kick

Even as late as the 1950s, it was commonplace for racial epithets to lace public discourse, while today direct references to race make relatively few appearances. Yet as we’ve seen, race has hardly disappeared from politics. The once pervasive use of epithets has morphed into the coded transmission of racial messages through references to culture, behavior, and class. We live in a political milieu saturated with ugly racial innuendo.

But if so, why is there so little pushback from liberals? Why is racial pandering allowed to continue virtually unchallenged? Partly, conservative race-talk has adopted several strikingly effective strategies to insulate constant race baiting.

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Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • RepublicanSwine

    Looks like a timely read.

  • Girl Downunder

    Psychopaths (especially narcissistic personality disordered) being bullies, love to use this, “turn it around” game– it’s a common classic move. They are basically pathetic (though toxic) wimps who cannot accept any sort of culpability- even as they are sticking the knife in! The well-known, “gee, can’t you take a joke? You’re overly sensitive” is a typical line from this sort. They- are as good as gold, you- are the one with the problem– that you actually push back proves it! Passive/aggressive garbage. I’d say this aligns perfectly with your current-day, right-wing bigot behaviours?

  • huntermike989

    Well, the last paragraph was pure bullshit. To think that liberals, in terms of their intensity in expressing their view of race and homosexual issues are anything but beaten down into silence.

    • Mr Wiseguy

      Agreed. You just cannot have a discussion with people who want to invert the meaning of every word in the English language. You can wrestle a pig in mud and you both get dirty. But the conservative, oops I mean pig, will actually like it.

  • charles king

    I think the People has been doing some (Critical Thinking) Like, What? the hell is going on in America, and they are wondering Where? in the hell is our Democracy. Why? are so many White folks not sure of Who? is the racist, me or you. President Obama really brought the People of the country together and got them to think about How? did we get to this point in our country and I think he got the People thinking about their Tomorrow. You, put him back into office for his second term so He got his answer and I am proud of the job He and his Administration are doing. America will be alright because you the People still hold the high grounds with your Voting Power, The Vote is still Supreme and along with Critical Thinking, you The People can’t lose, so get on out there and Vote those people out Who? are against your way of life Of For, and By the People, All People Not just those with MONIES, All the People, let Your Democracy move the country ahead. Thank You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All. Mr. C. E. KING

    • ironman2i

      You’re kidding, right?

  • Ursa Worlds

    Huh?? Black people have been talking about this for decades. How did the republicans take over in the 1980s? Racial politics, the backlash of the civil rights movement. And what did Reagan do? Closed factories and done away with unions that propelled whites into the middle-class. Reaganomics have hurt whites as well as blacks, but whites don’t seem to get it. As long as the powers that be were putting blacks in jail everything was fine..but now all of America is a prison industrial complex and it is too expensive it also is robbing us of human capitol. Blacks have been saying all along we need to invest in PEOPLE not companies.

    • ironman2i

      All liberals are fools and cowards. Blacks make up 18% of our population but commit over 60% of all crimes. You can’t name one city that has a large black population that isn’t a sewer of crime and poverty. For all you college educated Poly Sci.and Sociology morons let me explain, They’re in prison because,” HELLO” they commit all kinds of crime!!!!

      • idamag

        All generalities are lies. Racists cannot hide it for long.

        • L.Bundy

          Your statement then MUST be a lie by your own glib and shallow analysis. Your comment is a glaring example of over-generalization.

      • Mr Wiseguy

        Why are you calling them criminals? You are the criminal for injecting criminality into this discussion.

        • ironman2i

          Read my comment again, only slower, that might make it easier for you to understand. If I injected criminality in my comments, “HELLO,” again,it’s because all of the inmates are convicted criminals, who just happen to be black. Go back to college and get your Masters in urban what ever, and don’t call people criminals, you moron!

    • ironman2i

      this is soooo stupid only a college educated liberal could could say this, what an imbecile, must be a Jew supporter of Barack obullshit

  • paulyz

    When a Black man became President, so many people thought that this would eliminate racism. I believe with his ignoring any minority racism but making a big issue of White racism, he has made matters much worse. He has divided our Country by race & other issues. Did Obama ever mention the racism of the New Black Panthers, the racism of Joe Biden, Jesse Jackson, or Harry Reid? Racists come in all colors but I sincerely believe it was lessening quite a bit, after all, MANY Whites voted for President Obama. It is NOT Obama’s race that people are angry about, it is his policies……….

    • Mr Wiseguy

      Even though his policies are market-driven, tax rates lower than Reagan, etc. it is his policies that make you angry? Another racial codeword. Or is it just that his policy is not to whimsically send the military into another conservative wet dream war at the drop of a hat what makes you angry?

    • ironman2i

      you are absolutely right, blacks voted 98% for obama,60% of whites voted for Obama, now whose the racist?

  • Angel Perea

    THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH: Is all this just a coincidence? Does this
    Bundy free loader and racist cowboy Issue goes beyond him? The right wing tea party bigots have been playing the RACE CARD ever since their FAVOR HATED TARGET THAT BLACK GUY IN THE WHITE HOUSE that was elected as President! This is why the tea party seditionist have become an evocative symbol for the dangerous radical right wing, falsely labeled conservatives. After weeks of accusations against our U.S. Bureau of Land Management to enforce our laws that lawbreaker Bundy with his armed domestic terrorists did violate, a number of Republican elected officials, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Senator Cruz, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (and their tea party seditionist critics) were supporting their darling Mr. Bundy with his ugly bigotry as well as violating their oath of office to support the laws of the United States of America against all enemies. All of them are now publicly outted as well as Bundy’s media champion Hannity and FOX news now have dangerous ugly PR mess that they help to create! We are a nation of laws. We don’t get to
    KEEPING IT THOUGHTFULLY HONEST: The reality of the White and Black divide. I wonder what the outcome would have been in Nevada if Cliven Bundy would have been a “NEGRO” guy with a group of armed black militia? Would Hannity at FOX be interviewing “Clarence” Bundy as his law breaker guest to provide support against the big bad Govt.? Hey. Darrell Issa, how about another hearing to waste more of our tax payers funds? Hum…

    • idamag

      And if they cannot disguise their statements, they “misspoke.

  • idamag

    It was just food? What a crock!

    • Mr Wiseguy

      Cracker is a food too white bread boy.

  • Dev Looshen

    Since moral standards, customs, and traditions form the basis of our liberty and prosperity, their destruction undermines the civilized culture that has evolved upon them.

  • Jasmine An’deez

    While civilization’s progress depends on liberty, its decline accelerates under the leaden threads of centralized restrictions and control.