Book Review: “Dog Whistle Politics:”
Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class Ian Haney López New York, Oxford University Press, 2014.
Here’s another needed and far too rare political “prophet” sort of work to add to the “how did I miss this?” stack. First, Michael Horton’s scathing critique of the Christian political slant, Beyond Culture Wars (1994; seen mentioned in Christianity Today, but did not see in a bookstore until ’96), and then, columnist Carl Rowan’s The Coming Race War. (1996; found ’98, at Borders, 5 WTC). Both, two years after publication. Now,I’ve gotten a little better, as it’s one year (or maybe 1½) after publication. Still, too long, especially after writing stuff that could have cited it, including the “Ten Common Arguments in the Race Issue” http://www.erictb.info/racearguments.html and half a dozen other articles on politics here, including the last one “Slavery As the Ideal System”.
So this, like those two other two mentioned, nails all the issues in a way I just haven’t seen much. (And he even goes into why this is so).
The whole theme is that middle class Americans are being led to “vote against their own apparent interests”, in favor of affluent plutocrats, seen as on their side against “unproductive” minorities; which is the whole plot to begin with.
“Big money came to see dog whistling as a way to promote policies that favored society’s sultans. These policies are roughly the same advocated by malefactors of great wealth during the era of the robber baron: low taxes, a minimal or non-existent social safety net, and corporate control over the regulation of industry.
Their aim was not to wreck the middle class, but to convince average Americans to support policies that transferred wealth and power to the already extremely wealthy and powerful. Like the nonwhites injured by dog whistle racism, the middle class was not a target—just collateral damage” (p.74)
Here’s some of the best notes:
•Shows that the whole concept of “race” was just a convenient mechanism to justify slavery of Africans and expropriation of Native Americans. In the beginning of the 1600’s, before European settlement began in earnest, “white”, “red” and “black” did not exist as a concept of “races”.
For almost anyone, it is wrenching to encounter, let along participate in, the level of intense suffering associated with driving persons from their homes or forcing people into bondage. If, however, we can convince ourselves that our victims are not like us—do not feel pain the way we do, are not intelligent and sensitive, indeed are indolent, degenerate, violent and dangerous—then perhaps we’re not doing so much harm after all; indeed, more than protecting ourselves, maybe we are helping the benighted others. And how much better, in terms of excusing our own self-interest, if it turns out that forces beyond anyone’s control (and hence, beyond our moral responsibility) doomed these unfortunate others to subservience; if, say, God or nature fixed their insuperable character and determined their lot in life.
(From this point; I’m surprised he didn’t go into the current dog whistle I’ve mentioned elsewhere, of the “superhumanization bias” against blacks, which included the adultification of young black kids).
•”Three racisms”: “hate”, “structural”, and “implicit bias”. A lot of dog whistling deflection comes from assuming “racism” is “hate” only, and the main rival to that view today is “unconscious [i.e. implicit] bias”, which he also terms “commonsense racism” (which includes the whole “stereotype as ‘fact‘” concept).
•Discusses “Strategic” racism, where politicians who may otherwise not really have any hatred in their heart, nevertheless use it for their own goals.
Politicians like Wallace (the first “dog whistle” politician), Goldwater and Nixon started off moderate, but then adopted racial politics to win elections.
(That ironically sounds familiar, as what do the dog whistlers always say, but that blacks’ problem is that they want “free stuff”, and that it’s the liberals promising it to them to get votes. As I pointed out, it goes both ways!)
Includes whole history of this tactic, such as the “convict leasing” that immediately replaced slavery in the South.
“…because strategic racism is strategic; it is not fundamentally about race. The driving force behind strategic racism is not racial animus for its own sake or brutalizing nonwhites out of hate; it is the pursuit of power, money and/or status. Yes, provocateurs stimulate racial hatred intentionally, and yes, they do tremendous damage to nonwhite communities. But strategic racists act out of avarice rather than animus. Their aim is to pursue their own self-interest; racism is merely a route to mammon, not an end in itself” (p.47; bold added)
•In conjunction with this; mentions that racists are just regular and even “decent” folk (“who see racial injustice asa normal feature of sociey”), and not always hate-filled terrorists, or whatever. (p. xii, 5, 37, 41ff, 112). This touches upon what I was recently getting at here: https://erictb.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/a-new-look-at-the-survival-instinct
They’re basically average people who identify (psychologically, meaning to see it as an extension of their egos that they feel virtually nonexistent without) with a historic system whose errors they refuse to completely admit were wrong, so they have to defend, and try to validate it by upholding the legacy in one way or another (and then refuse to repent of their part in it).
Hence, the problem can’t be rich capitalists; they’re our heroes; an extension of us (even if I myself haven’t lived up to the ideal, and have to admit they’re “better” than me). So it must be the blacks, whom our forefathers then must have been right in trying to suppress (even if you can get some of them to lip the protocol, “it was bad thing”. The whole point of dog whistle ideology is implication, and often subconscious).
•Faithfully recounts the whole “Southern Strategy”, which is a process often ignored by modern dogwhistlers, trying to tag all “racism” on “The Democratic Party — then and now”. (I’m surprised he didn’t mention this part of the dog whistle rhetoric).
•Shows how think tanks arose in the 70’s to continue the dog whistling after conservativism suffered from a lack of credibility at the end of the 60’s. They then found an ally in Ronald Reagan.
•Goes into “backlash” as an assumed “natural” process, shaping people’s responses to the issue
•Suggests “liberal elites” had a sympathy for racist sentiment (such as that racial equality was disruptive, and this is what we saw in the recent minor controversy over a Bernie Sanders rally), which is why they were slow to “favor retreat” from conservative rhetoric. Among them as well, “the dog whistle harping on welfare, forced busing and law and order struck powerful chords, making it that much harder for Democratic leaders to see coded race-baiting for what it was—a strategy, not a natural reaction. (p.33-34)
(Also, later, because they didn’t want to be seen as stirring the racial pot, especially, knowing conservatives were throwing back the charge of “the race card”. This then connects to the whole “post-racial” sentiment.
This was always a big frustrated question for me, but now it seems it should have figured all along. This would be like I and others being embarrassed about black crime (and the general image that goes with it, as I discussed in Makers-Takers), and thus not wanting to speak out but so much on it, because it’s a part of our own identity. (I did address it in the rap essay, and otherwise figure public discourse and even the black community is already filled with images and outcries of “black crime”, so contrary to dog-whistlers’ assertions, the issue is already being addressed more than enough). So I’ll get annoyed when people try to rub the problem in our faces. If I were white, even holding the same views, my identity would identify with that race instead of black, and so it would be a bit harder to criticize racist rhetoric, and easier to allow dog whistling premises to pass.
Likewise, in the Christian world, it’s probably also why more moderate, and perhaps even liberal Christians don’t want to go after the archconservatives. Like “new-evangelical” apologetics taking a stronger stand against “separatist” old-line fundamentalists who are constantly attacking the more contemporary Church. Many of them still respect the greater pietism of the old-liners, even if they don’t follow it themselves, and thus they are seen as still ultimately on their side against “secularism”, the “real enemy”, though the old-liners don’t see it that way, but have lumped them in as having sold out to secularism, themselves. When I associated with a more old-line church, and would ask more moderate Christians what they think about old-line positions such as on music —[which is actually a dog-whistle issue among them; more on this below]; they would always dismiss it by saying “just submit to their leadership if you are under them”).
•Talking about racial inequalities only confirms people’s beliefs: “Of course there are inequalities, and now you’ve shown me the natural differences are greater than I thought”.
•The whole conversion of “colorblindess” into a “culture” assessment. (p. 92ff). The origins of “the problem is black families”, which is pinned on a book by future Senator Moynihan and Nathan Glazer, in Beyond the Melting Pot: The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians and Irish of New York City” and by The Moynihan Report shortly afterward.
When the term “culture of poverty” was first used by the anthropologist Oscar Lewis in 1959, it was seized upon as “evidence” that poverty is not caused primarily by an absence of material resources. This was never Lewis’s intention.
This was willfully misinterpreted…; it was absorbed into an ancient moral critique of the poor; identified in modern industrial society with chaotic, disorganised lives, absence of parental ambition for children, aversion to hard labour and a tendency to addiction.
Lewis’s work influenced a report by Daniel Moynihan during the Lyndon B Johnson presidency’s “war on poverty” in 1965, which spoke of a “tangle of pathology” in relation to black families, and highlighted a “deviant maternalism” as a consequence of the fugitive male.
But the idea of culture as a cause of poverty has been tenacious; because it not only is readily assimilated to earlier ideas of “the undeserving”, but also lends a shimmer of scientific authority to ancient prejudice. This culture poses an anthropological problem, similar to that faced by imperialism when it confronted the “savage” societies of its overseas possessions. It requires colonisation of unorthodox or aberrant beliefs, and conformity with “correct”, universal values, which always coincide with those of the rich and powerful.
This seemed to be a “liberal” attempt to address the problem; having “acknowledged the destructive legacy of past racism in distorting the cultures of nonwhite groups.” (Lopez, ibid.) But, “This was an important concession, but one that only half followed the liberal insight from mid-century that tied the situation of nonwhites to past and present social practices. In their focus on the present, Glazer and Moynihan largely dropped structural impediments fromt heir analysis. Rather, in ‘major part’, they directed attention to ‘the home and family and community’ for the immediate causes of the inferior educational, social and material position of racial minorities”.
So the “report” then, was used to determine the civil right movement’s increasing demands for equality could not be met because of “failings in the black community itself”; namely “the Negro family”. (We can see right here, why some blacks who are knowledgeable still mistrust liberal Democrats as little better int he race issue).
“Race” was replaced with “ethnicities” (and from here, is briefly mentioned the charge that “other groups pulled themselves up”), and then the real problem was made “culture”, even though this perfectly matched the old “race” category. (And what would they eventually begin fighting under the banner of, but a “Culture War”, in which race has always ended up connected in one way or another to the moral and financial issues that “war” was framed on?)
So under the banner of “colorblindness”, they could actually continue the same old racial stereotypes, but then claim it is “culture” and not “race”, and that they are just going by “fact” (and from there, deflect charges of “racism” onto the other side, including claiming whites are the true “victims” of it. Even the Anglo-Saxons became the most vulnerable, victimized minority, from being the only group ineligible to claim affirmative action).
Ethnicity told a story of groups either defeated or elevated by their own cultures. Dog whistle politicians embraced the ethnic fiction, amplifying themes of deviant nonwhite behavior and white innocence. The narratives promoted alike by the ethnic turn and racial demagogues—a lack of work ethic, a preference for welfare, a propensity toward crime, or their opposites—reinvigorated racial stereotypes, giving them renewed life in explaining why minorities lagged behind whites. These stereotypes might have faded as society addressed racism. Instead, they became the staples of political discourse, repeaded ad nauseam by politicians, think tanks and media.
“Colorblindness” cast the ongoing of the problems to the people themselves, instead of ongoing structural components of racism. This then led to a return to the old “laissez faire” concept of “rugged individualism” (from the old “robber baron” age of the past, the nation voted away through the New Deal), which was one of the things the “deficient” black culture refused to adopt.
Scholars in the 1990’s remarked that “a new form of prejudice has come to prominence, one that is preoccupied with matters of moral character, informed by the virtues associated with the traditions of individualism. At its center are the contentions that blacks do not try hard enough to overcome the difficulties they face and that they take what they have not earned”. (p. 100, citing Kinder, Sanders Divided by Color: Racial Politics and Democratic Ideals).
So many have come to believe that they prosper because they possess “the values, orientations, and work ethic needed by the self-making individual in a capitalist society”, and thus, “It is now virtually commonsense, at least among the GOP faithful, that minorities fail, and they succeed, as rugged individuals”.
An extension of ethnicity across the color line might have been a felicitous development, for instance if society had come to see nonwhites in terms of cultural variety and a shared humanity. Instead, though, when ethnicity eventually was applied to nonwhites, it changed form and became another way of explaining unbridgeable difference. Where supremacist conceptions of race attributed minority failings to nature, ethnic conceptions would link virtually the same faults to their culture. Ethnicity ultimately replaced nature with culture, but otherwise left the stereotypes explaining minority inferiority largely untouched.
(This tactic also allows them to acknowledge “the good ones“; who do not fit the stereotype of the race, without this damaging the stereotype itself).
This method to “reconceptualize racial dynamics” is framed as a tactic to ultimately prevent amelioration of inequality by attacking the “traditional liberal solutions”; including that “they themselves create cultural pathologies in nonwhite communities”. (And here, on p.97 we get mention of conservative thinkers such as Charles Murray, Dinesh D’Souza, and another one I don’t remember, Myron Magnet).
“Clearly, something must explain white dominance, but what?”
“If racism does remain a problem, how can conservatives object to remedying it?”
“What makes these efforts [welfare, job training, housing, education] futile, or unfair to whites [who once benefitted from them]”?
Most importantly, “how can conservatives talk about why minorities pose a looming threat, if race is just a matter of skin color [as their position of “colorblindness” argued]”?
They deny racial groups can be defined by “culture” only when challenged; otherwise, they routinely employ ethnic terms as a coded way to talk about racial groups and their supposedly incompatible behaviors and beliefs.
“Whites believed in structural remedies when they saw the poor as people like themselves [i.e. other whites], folks sometimes trapped by larger forces or bad breaks. They shifted to a belief in personal failings when they began to see the poor as nonwhites fundamentally unlike themselves. Today, conservatives like Gingrich seek to both stoke and exploit the conviction that the poor chose their fate”.
Meanwhile, he cites Dr. King as acknowledging that the black family as part of the cause of its present crisis culturally and socially induced. Yet his solution was access to jobs, education and housing, coupled with freedom from further exploitation.
Ethnicity provides a basis for blaming minorities for their inferior positions, since it faults their supposedly defective cultures; simultaneously, it exhonerates whites, since racism is no longer to blame for inequality. This in turn answers the question of government help: such assistance is futile because only nonwhites can reform their inferior cultures and self-defeating behaviors. Finally, the ethnic turn promotes a new culture talk that surreptitiously resurrects old stereotypes, allowing conservatives to reinvigorate a pernicious aspect of racism; contentions about fundamental differences in behavior and culture between innocent whites and threatening nonwhites.
Racial demagogues could drop direct references to biology and racial groups, and still stir racial passions. Ethnicity helped establish a commonsense framework in which discussions of dysfunctional culture and menacing behavior were readily understood as describing the essential identity of nonwhites.
Yet racial demagogues did more than resurrect old stereotypes; they altered them in ways that combined assaults on nonwhites with attacks on liberalism. Shaped by the coded language of conservative dog whistle politics, racial stereotypes increasingly connected ideas of minority inferiority with rightwing political narratives. Today, the most powerful racial stereotypes—the ones most generally credited and in widest circulation—dovetail precisely with dog whistle naratives jointly attacking minorities and liberalism.
It should be emphasized at this point, that this is not to deny that there is any validity to the notion of “culture”. For instance, I’ve long acknowledged that this whole “thug/gangsta” image, greatly promoted in recent generations by industries like entertainment, is about a “culture” or “sub-culture”, and thus not every member of a “race”. However, one problem is that this is not recognized enough, when in practice making that “culture” nearly coterminous with the race, save a few “good ones”.
So the main problem this leads into, is that if you want discuss “cultural” difference (in terms of “problems”), fine. But the purpose of this is always to compare to one’s own culture, seen as up to “par”, if not par itself, which is also assumed to be “exceptional” (which is really just a softer word for “superior”).
THAT‘s where the “racism” lies (the making of one’s own group “better” than others, which is the original definition), but this is always attempted to be hidden behind the “fact” of “culture”!
|Dog Whistling in the Religious Right
Among conservative Christians who engage in dog whistle rhetoric or general belief in “exceptionalism”, the entire set of well-known scriptural teachings on the sinfulness of all men (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 3:9-20 Galatians 3:22, Luke 18:9-14, John 9:41) goes right out the window in favor of a pure cultural merit, and they don’t even realize it. (And they are actually the ones who have spoken the most of a “Culture War“, and though this is more about “secular humanism” and moral liberalism and not [directly] race, still, these “forces” are part of what they complain has forced “egalitarianism” on to them. Here’s an example of the line of reasoning used to dismiss scriptures like this: https://erictb.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/an-example-of-the-legalism-of-the-running-the-race-teaching/#comment-3332)
If an individual says “I am justified by my good works”, or a “cult group” or other religion says “we shall be saved by our works” then their “heresy” is obviously recognized, and these people regarded as hell-bound sinners rejecting Christ’s Gospel. But when “mainstream” [“orthodox” evangelical] Christians themselves extend this same rationale to “culture”, it’s a different story. Individual “salvation” no longer matters; it’s the salvation of the nation from others’ [external forces] sins by our own goodness.
Also, “culture” was long used as a racial dog whistle in the old Christian music debates within the church. Christian music using “secular” (contemporary) styles such as rock are condemned as “worldly”, supposedly for being produced by an “ungodly” post-Christian culture; but ultimately for the style coming from blacks. But then secular (such as classical, or strictly patriotic) music done in a traditional style is considered acceptable, because the “culture” they were produced in was “Christian”, and therefore “sacred”.
One expression of “colorblindness” was the saying “not skin, but sin” (which a common tract was even written on). While I thought that was a nice idea, overall the “sin” part was still not owned by the evangelical “culture” producing the meme; but was rather, generally, seen as external; like race was something “secular” society was having an issue with, but their problem is “sin”, and as one contemporary music critic (brushing off the notion of the addressing of racism as a topic of Christian music) put it, “The Bible has the answers”. But the Bible is in this case simply thrown at others, while one assumes they’re already in line with it.
So “not skin, but sin” basically becomes “not color, but culture”. To put it together,
That’s why, even though there’s a lot of truth to the notion of “culture”, it still leads back to bona fide racist sentiment.
So this “cultural” focus just leads to distortions of the Gospel into an imagined “Christian culture” that is an extension of biblical Israel, in being “chosen” by God; but unlike Israel, infused with the Spirit, making them overall behaviorally “superior” or “exceptional”, even if every single individual in the nation or culture was not regenerated.
Another, particularly nasty manifestation of “colorblindness” is the actual reappropriation of the “N” word to people [hypothetically of any race] who do bad things (which even blacks, trying to neutralize it in the past, said was a better use for it). What I had been seeing in “conservative news” article comments is it then being used for the black criminal[s] of the story. So now, they get to openly use the N word on blacks (as boldly as an antebellum slavemaster or Jim Crow sheriff, though usually spelled differently like removing the e) while still vigorously denying “racism”! (Talk about “having your cake and eating it too”! Who could ask for a better setup? But like the “emperor with no clothes”, these people so buy their own reasonings and think is passes with everyone else, and have no concept of “the appearance of evil”; i.e. what it looks like to others).
On P.102 he puts the strategy all together:
- Race is just a matter of blood, and has no connection to past or present social practices.
- Racism means being treated differently on the basis of race. Since affirmative action treats whites differently because of race, it constitutes racism. On the other hand, there is little racism against minorities today: witness the absense of proven malice.
- Ethnicity shows that whites do not exist as a dominant group, but only as ethnic minorities with just as much right as other minorities to protect their own group interests
- Group cultures differ, and it’s not racist to acknowledge that white ethnics have succeded, and nonwhite groups have failed, on the basis of differences in group capacity and behavior. Moreover, since groups are the masters of their own fate, it is futile (in addition to being racist) for government to give some groups special handouts
“When laid out this way, it’s no surprise that Reagan and other political leaders since have embraced colorblindness. It sounds liberal, yet works like a racial cudgel, denying that there’s discrimination against minorities, elevating whites as racial victims, justifying white superiority, and facilitating dog whistle racial appeals that emphasize culture and comportment”.
•Highlights the Clintons’ use of racial politics (such as “getting tough on crime”, which was an instance of a liberal use of the “dog whistle”; which I clearly remembered him “needing” to do during his first campaign to compete with the Republicans, especially with the whole “Horton” campaign still fresh in mind); and that Bill used his Arsenio appearance make himself look like “the first black president” and a “friend” of blacks or “honorary brother”. (“[race-baiting] may have violated Clinton’s values; indeed, he was likely deeply troubled by the perceived need to racially pander. Whatever the case, though, Clinton bit down on that whistle and blew. At root, the ‘racism’ in dog whistle racism is the ‘strategy’…[lying] in provoking racial animosities in order to gain votes and power.” p.113)
In this point, it also mentions the black vote being “not so much disdained as taken for granted. The black community could be pushed away and even slapped down a bit, without seriously jeopardizing African American electoral support. After all, the reasoning went, where could they go?” (This is basically the “lesser of two evils” premise, which is also working on the right side, where Republicans have taken their electorate for granted, who essentially have no where else to go).
•As racial politics dies down after Clinton reforms, Heritage Foundation blames failures of tax cuts for rich on “social programs”. This is what set the focus back on “lazy minorities”, to the present (I definitely had noted how the rhetoric had died down, and then kicked back up around 2004).
And of course, 9-11 also drew more ire towards “Arab Muslims” and “illegal immigrants” from across the southern border.
•Mentions John Birch Society as being founded by candy manufacturer Robert Welch (“In a conxtext in which actual domestic support for communism was virtually nil”; so the term functioned as a hyperbolic catchall for the New Deal), and later mentions the Koch brothers (as billionaire backers for the Right, of course), so I’m surprised he never mentioned their father’s co-founding the JBS. (And that he dog whistled a connection between communists and civil rights as a serious threat to the country).
Here, it’s made clear that the whole platform of the Right against “government” really started with opposition to the government (who had initially benefitted whites through the New Deal) extending the benefits to blacks.
Until recently, I would hear the dog whistling, and try to give them the benefit of the doubt that their concerns were primarily economic and governmental, but wondered why blacks always had to get “caught in the crossfire” of their battles with liberal Democrats. Why couldn’t they just leave us out of it already, and realize that we’re not the ones getting all the money (but rather we’re all getting screwed, alike; whether this flow to the 1% is justified or not). But this makes it clear that it’s more the other way around. The modern “Democrats” or “government” in general is getting caught in the cross-fire of the old war against the blacks, disguised to look like a war against “big government”.
•“Punch, parry, kick” (p.129) Here he really nails the rhetorical deflect-and-turnabout dynamic conservatives use:
The punch is the dog whistle’s initial coded race-talk (including caricatures, such as an image of Obama on a “food stamp” bill with stereotypcal black food, or the “Obama phone lady”).
The parry is where they then play dumb, refusing to see any connection between their comments and race. This, where they often say “it’s fact, not racism”, and may accuse the other side of “whining”.
The kick is the counterattack, where they accuse the accuser of being the one injecting race into the conversation. This is where they level the charges of, “playing the race card”, and “being the true racists”.
•191ff Obama not “liberal” enough. Was not really constrained by GOP in the beginning, when they were in disarray, and their ideas largely discredited. With Obama silent, then their standard story about race and betrayal became the sole coherent narrative.
Suggests he may have been compensating for the “double strike” (in the eyes of the Right) of being both black and Democratic
•He at this point makes the distinction between the “colorblindness” of the Right, and the “post-racialism” as the left’s counterpart. Unlike colorblindness, post-racialism could acknowledge the damaging effect of past racism, but now doesn’t want to discuss it beyond that.
Some other things I’m surprised weren’t mentioned (in addition to the denial of Southern Strategy as a rhetorical tactic, the Koch-JBS connection, and “superhumanization bias”):
•Asians often being cited by dog whistlers as doing “better than whites” in intelligence scores. He uses the terms “nonwhite” a lot, and points out that the definition of who counts as white may change, but Asians are not yet being included as “white”, though nevertheless used to prove that the dog whistlers are not exalting their own race, because “look; we’re admitting others [the Asians] are better than US!“.
•While giving that one reference to Murray, surprisingly didn’t mention the attempts through his “Bell Curve” theory to still maintain some sort of natural difference.
•That there are plenty of rightwing people who do want to “discuss race” (and even condemn leftwing “political correctness” for censoring it), though of course, this is to openly blame minorities. These are the ones regarding the “dog whistlers” as “cuckservatives“, and rather than dog whistlers themselves, they would amount to regular audible whistle blowers! But I guess he’s focusing on the dog whistlers themselves, not on these more radical fringes. But these fringes were allowed to make their voices heard more by the dog whistlers softening the audience up for them!
•Another thing that could have been covered, since it was pointed out the nation favored the New Deal in the past, even citing the IRS headquarters inscription “taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilized society”, is how they were able to do it back then with no income tax. This would build his argument (below) that a “return” to “liberal government” is the solution.
•How the illusion of “black culture” being bad, was fed to many of them for a profit, and then further broadcast by they themselves to the entire world, through entertainment venues such as “gangsta rap” (which of course also benifitted the huge media empires publishing it). I’ve always seen this as a ploy to justify racism, (in the very vein of those rappers claiming to be anti-white and pro-black). Now, everybody sees that stuff, and the kids emulating it from coast to coast, and it “proves” more than anything else, that all the stetreotypes of blacks are true. They themselves openly flaunt it, even!
The book ends on “What to Do”
Politicians: Obama is not in a position to take on race directly, but must 1) articulate and govern according to a positive liberal vision, and 2) “give a consistent and coherent account of who the culprits are”; “who’s holding us down, and even pushing us downward”, since “with so much hardship in their lives, people want to know who to blame” (“resentment abhors a vacuum”); pointing out that dog whistle politicians have made assigning blame their principle task.
However, we should not engage in scapegoating and clarify that it is not wealth itself or corporations that are the problem, but that we cannot ignore self-interested billionaires and corporations that attempt to distort the democratic process to serve their own interests. (And he cites Teddy Roosevelt, a “great capitalist”, who nevertheless lambasted “malefactors of great wealth”. 3) Liberal politicians must encourage their allies and appointees to discuss race.
Civil Rights Organizations: 1) promote liberalism 2) spark a new civil rights movement. He has us imagine three positions regarding racial justice: a left commitment to directly addressing inequalities, a rightwing agenda of reversing civil rights and preserving the status quo, and in the middle, universal liberal programs that only indirectly help minorities. “By staying silent on race, the left effectively disappeared: no one was arguing for direct responses to racial injustice.” What happened, is that that middle position came to be seen as “left” and even “radical”, and even Democrats fearing being identified with “left” programs. (“this is where we find ourselves today”).
Foundations and unions: Most have also retreated from directly engaging with racial justice. If the issues they do address touch on poverty, they will also inevitably intersect with race, and if they seek government help, will be contested in racial terms. Public unions find themselves the targets of aggressive attacks, particularly economic ones, such as the cost to taxpayers of fulfilling pension obligations, and also “a racial refrain that paints many unions, especially public ones, as havens of unproductive minorities” (I saw this first hand on the Christian board I debated on! As I’ve said in Makers-Takers, “even if you’re working, you’re still a ‘taker’, if you essentially ‘want too much’ ⦅including any sort of job security or benefits⦆'” All of this should make it clear, that “slavery” is basically the hypothetical ideal of this system).
So these organizations’ principal work should be “a long term project to restore luster to liberalism itself”, including a “consensus on how to help the middle class”. They had backed down from defending this, due to pressure from the Clinton and Obama administrations to tone down on demands for New Deal style solutions for economic challenge, shifting rightward with the rest of the country. Or, they hold a complacent sense that liberalism needs no defense, and will naturally win out in the end.
But looking at the way the conservative think tanks and media conglomerates (and the influence of people like the Kochs), “in today’s political climate, bad ideas thrive with sufficient resources behind them, and good ideas wither from neglect. Liberals must acknowledge the skewed nature of the marketplace of ideas and foundations and unions must step up their commitments to supporting advocacy organizations, think tanks, and grassroots groups motivated to re-engage the increasingly one-sided debates…”. This extends to supporting universities (including schools like law, business and medicine), starting with liberal arts programs to help foster the values and critical thinking that undergirds liberalism, as conservatives have been effective in pouring money into endeavors like this.
The rest of us:
Consciously consider race (“The racial subterfuge of coded appeals that has done so much to wreck the middle class is easy to pierce, but only if one consciously mulls over how race might be involved”).
Raise one’s voice (“Rightwing racial attacks on liberalism depend on cowing into silence those opposed to continuing racial demonization, thus allowing dog whistle calumnies to spread unchallenged”. In discussing how colorblindness makes those who point out racism seem to be the racists, he interjects a second time “as if pulling a fire alarm means one set the fire, or dialing 911 means one committed the crime“.) So to defeat dog whistle racism, we need to sound that alarm! (And for persons of color, this is especially risky, since there’s additional pressure to stay silent and “show that race no longer matters”).
And it doesn’t necessarily mean electing more Democrats, for they can use the whistle as well.
He praises the Occupy Wall St. movement as good, showing that “tremendous passion exists around issues of economic inequality” and how social media comes to good use; but erring in refusing to engage in party politics (like the Tea Party did) and accept major financial backing; and also ignoring race. (“It was a curious spectacle, to see many white youth in Oakland up in arms about economic injustice but resistant to talking about racism, in a city where wealth and poverty correlate so closely with color”).
Typical “dog whistle” meme that attempts to accuse the other side of falsely making the issue about race. It totally ignores all the instances where the black victim WAS obeying or not resisting, and still got shot. It in one brush stroke makes all black victims automatically guilty of resisting arrest, just because they got shot. It implies the police are always right, and black kids are always wrong. This really needs to be challenged, nonstop
So he basically advocates for “liberal” use of “government”, and a focus on race. I admit that I have been greatly influenced by the “post-racial” mindset, in basically cowing to the Right’s tough talk against “government”, and “the race card”. I would say that Obama was using “tact” in deflecting from race, which is what I had been saying all along. How can we keep pushing both for “government”, and decrying “racial discrimination”, when the other side has been loudly trashing both issues as us just wanting to tyrannize them (à la “Communism”) in order to take “free stuff” from them, and we have not even been answering that charge.
I still think there is wisdom in recognizing a limit of government, as it, just like big business, or dog whistle organizations, is composed of humans who often act on their own self-interest, which corrupts the goals, and leaves those they are supposed to help still not helped that much.
But he does say, continuing with the comment electing Democrats not being the goal; “Rather, the goal is to restore a political consensus that sees government not as a handmaiden to mooching nonwhites, but as a powerful tool for promoting liberty and opportunity for all“.
The result of dog whistle politics is that while so much money has been going to the super-rich, people still continue to insist it’s all gone to the minorities (like claiming “22 Trillion” went to “welfare” programs since Johnson, as I’ve seen).
The goal is to restore the paradigm of the “robber baron”, who through “rugged individualism” can milk dry as much of the people as they can; and then not only that, but to have it all blamed on minorities, who then are the ones deemed needing restraints put on them. (Just as in the old ideal setup of the Old South, which many are still hoping will “rise again”!)
This, (aside from the arguments of the dangers of “big government”, and whether it “works”, or whether programs will really help the minorities for whom the ghetto lifestyle is so engrained) I would say is a good start.
Here’s an article with some of his points:
8 Sneaky Racial Code Words and Why Politicians Love Them