Dog whistle racism

My wife suggested that when I use the term dog whistle racism it may not resonate with everyone. In short, it means implying racism without resorting to actual racist words.

“Send her back” is a prime example as countless minority groups of all colors have been told to go back where you came from. Defenders of the president have said he did not say racist remarks, but they did not hear the dog whistle. His remarks were directed at four women of color with non-WASP like names.

Variations of this are “we don’t need your kind around here” or the more innocent version of “where are you from?” It also applies to athletics where black and brown athletes are not defined as “heady athletes” as white athletes are. Even a famous sportscaster said a black quarterback could not be successful because they had to read and react to complex coverages implying blacks could not do so. Times have indeed changed.

Alabama Governor George Wallace was not the forerunner of racism in politics, but he was the face of white supremacy as he stood in the doorway trying to deny entry to young black students. He used dog whistle racism as well as the old fashioned racist rhetoric when he ran for president following the various civil rights movements.

He did not win, but Richard Nixon did using a southern strategy that reeked of dog whistle racism. His purpose was to take advantage of what LBJ feared. LBJ predicted the Democrats would lose the south following his push for the civil and voting rights laws. Ironically, these laws were passed with the help of several Republicans, but that did not matter. Nixon and his strategist Lee Atwater made sure of that.

Scrolling forward, Senator Jesse Helms routinely used dog whistle racism to get elected. But, one of his tougher races was against Harvey Gantt, the first black mayor of Charlotte and first black student at Clemson University. Helms ran commercials that implied racism, one in particular focusing on a pair of black hands as a negative message was spoken.

Dog whistle racism uses code words to imply inferiority or difference. Trump’s attacking four elected women of color denouncing their right to criticize our country is flat wrong. His using more code words to attack Congressman Elijah Cummings also is racist with references to rat infested areas. It should be noted the president had to settle two court cases over discriminatiory rental practices.

Dog whistle or not, we cannot condone and must condemn the president for his racist and xenophobic remarks. Racism is a part of our history, but it represents the worst of our nature. We must guard against it, especially when it comes out of the president’s mouth. We need to hold up our better angels.

11 thoughts on “Dog whistle racism

  1. Glad to be back and reading your thoughtful, well reasoned posts Keith (would that I could tone down my rhetoric as you so masterfully do).
    This is all very true.
    In the UK you can always sense intolerance by the very British statement ‘These views are a breath of fresh air in this PC (politically correct) World’ or ‘They are only saying what the Ordinary Person is thinking?’ (Have you ever met an ‘Ordinary Person’?….I haven’t).
    And of course if anyone has to deny they are a racist……well

    • Roger, I am glad you are back. I am of the mind that most thoughts need to be kept inside people’s heads. Some of the more ardent things that pop in one’s mind are better left unsaid, as they will make you feel better, but dampen or destroy the message. We must play to our better angels. I was sharing with someone yesterday, that it truly amazes me that we are having a conversation about the racial divisiveness of the president of the United States. This person in the White House wears me out making almost every issue contentious to win political points. Many of the things he opines on are not in his purview, so it matters not what he thinks. Keith

      • The main concern with him being there are 30,000,000+ people who will for one reason or another support what he says, come what may.
        And we have Johnson with Farage willing to support him in the blind stampede called Brexit.
        It will need very hard headed and somewhat ruthless but focused folk to force them out and redress the balance lest these oafs preside over the collapse of their respective nations.

      • Roger, I saw where a reputable think tank reported that a no-deal Brexit would be god-awful. A Brexit would be bad for the economy, but a no deal Brexit is malfeasance. Think of lines of trucks in the Chunnel and between the two Irelands as Johnson and Farage try to pretend it is not a problem. In some respects, it is kismet that these two people will have to now deal with the mess they are making.


  2. Note to Readers: BBC World News America often invites Ron Christie, a former George W. Bush senior communication leader to discuss issues. Last night, he was discussing yet again the president’s racial comments. He said politics used to be all about addition, not subtraction. This comments subtract from the Republican party and civil discourse.

    • Thanks Susan. We need those evangelical ministers to step up and say this kind of talk is not right. Period. Too many have made a deal with the devil to get some judges. They still don’t realize the tax bill helped the wealthy far more than the base.

      • Susan, two of our blogging friends have noted some of their friends who support Trump, do not want to hear debate over issues. Trump who is known for lying recurrently, has been able to convince his base that everyomr else is lying. That seems to be his one talent, as it certainly not managemenf or leadership. Keith

  3. Note to Readers: This president can tempt anyone to curse, but that is just what he wants. A mud fight. He can win a mud fight. He is not so good at debates over issues. He takes pride in his lack of preparation, which should be a telltale sign.

    Paraphrasing a Steely Dan lyric from “Reelin’ in the years,” here is a backhanded way to get a point across:

    “You have been telling me you aren’t racist since you were seventeen,
    In all this time I’ve known you, I still don’t know what you mean.”

  4. Note to Readers: The Jim Crow period was a horrible era in America, even in its mildest form. Blacks could not eat in restaurants catering to Whites, but they could get a to-go brown bag meal from the back window. This is not quite dog whistle racism, but said clearly your money is better than you are. It was only when Blacks started using their money to protest by not frequenting places or transportation did things to start to change. This is a way to send a clear message to racist behavior – make people who stay at Trump hotels and resorts think about it.

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