Racism and Dog Whistle Politics - An Examination

November 6, 2014

I am audio reading this new book, "Dog Whistle Politics," by Ian Haney Lopez.  While only in Chapter 4, I have already realized the true purpose and nature of color blindness as it is practiced today. Moreover, I have learned how structural and strategic racism are used to win elections and to continue to concentrate wealth among the one percent, while being propped up and supported by the concept of color blindness for the masses.


Dog whistle politics are used to deny the rights of everyone, not just people of color, just as racism is used for the same purpose. What is important to note is that the purpose is not the intent, but rather the desired outcome. People who are color blind do not recognize this, and

this is why being color blind is so important to achieving those desired outcomes. When white people hear the silent whistle, it plays the delicate tones of denial -- the fragility of their rights as white people, with the crescendo being the potential for the very destruction of their way of life. They then vote for policies that directly adversely affect them without ever realizing that the very policies that they are attributing as undeserved benefits to non-white people are actually for the benefit of themselves. They don't realize that the real aim and purpose of these policies are to concentrate wealth at their expense by appealing to their sense of "rightness."


Dog Whistle politics are used in various forms and with various intensities. The key here is that no where in the discourse is overt racism expressed. Here is a great example of what I mean:


"Sen. Tom Coburn Hopes Mitch McConnell 'Truly Establishes Regular Order'."


Let me explain what this statement really means:


"Tom Coburn hopes Mitch McConnell puts that nigger in his place once and for all and gets him, his bitch and his bastards out of the White House."


Don't think so? What do you hear in that statement? What does that statement mean to you? What, in fact, does Establishing Regular Order make you feel like?" What sort of "disorder" do you feel we are a part of today? Any visceral feelings of perceived rightness in that statement?


Why, you may ask, would I believe that this statement is extremely powerful and is an example of Dog Whistle politics? I'll tell you. It is because it represents the very heart of hidden agendas. It contains those silent whistles that are heard subliminally rather than seen, those sounds that resonate in the subconscious minds of people who are otherwise normal, upstanding citizens and who abhor overt and malicious expressions of racism. It affects people who are colorblind today because they believe that race should never be used for any purpose whatsoever, and they believe that this lofty vision has been achieved.


During President Obama's bid for the White House, the silent whistle blew incessantly and no one called out any of the politicians, since it couldn't be proven that they were being "overtly racist," or having "malicious intent." Here are but a couple of the notable statements:


Rick Santorum said:

 “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them other people’s money.”

Newt Gingrich said:

“I will tell black people to demand paychecks instead of food stamps.”


Barack Obama was repeatedly called, "The Food Stamp President."


In an eloquently written article by Yvette Carnell entitled, "White People Make Up 42% of the Poor, But Take in Whopping 69% of Government Benefits," she illuminates statistics taken from the New York Times Economix Blog:


"Another finding of the study is that the distribution of benefits no longer aligns with the demography of poverty. African-Americans, who make up 22 percent of the poor, receive 14 percent of government benefits, close to their 12 percent population share.


White non-Hispanics, who make up 42 percent of the poor, receive 69 percent of government benefits – again, much closer to their 64 percent population share."


She goes on to implore the reader to "Read that again. It says blacks comprise 22 percent of the poor, but blacks only take in 14 percent of government benefits. Conversely,  whites make up 42 percent of the poor , but take in a disproportionate 69 percent of government benefits." 


Her observation certainly achieved full merit as far as I'm concerned when she wrote, "If Republicans cut these programs, as part of the sequester or any other backdoor maneuver, their issue will be with their own base, not blacks. Although, I’m not yet convinced that some white right wingers wouldn’t starve themselves if it meant robbing a black or brown person of a spoonful of broth."

Back in 1979, the Supreme Court decided that only "malicious intent" and overt, seen, racism was unconstitutional. They reiterated Justice Powell's assertion that the constitution was "colorblind." The context was changed however, when racism was revived and reorganized in the early 80s in order to justify how we have come to "view" racism today. 


In a color blind society, racism is HEARD, not SEEN. Therefore, we do not "view" racism at all. Think about it. By taking away the "seen" expressions of racism, it is virtually impossible to prove its very existence -- the desired outcome. It became palatable for people of all ethnicities to become colorblind and through this lens, it served to erase racism in discourse and overt expressions, but not the structural, strategic, institutional and systemic functionality of it for purposes of concentrating wealth among the One Percent.


I encourage everyone to read, "Dog Whistle Politics-How Coded Racial Appeals have Reinvented racism and Wrecked the Middle Class," by Ian Haney Lopez. 



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