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Racist Appeals Undermining the Middle Class


Not only is the U.S. far from achieving a post-racial society, but dog-whistle politics is reinforcing the role of race and contributing to the decline of the middle class as whites vote against their own best interests.

This is the thesis in a new book by Ian Haney López, a law professor at the University of California-Berkeley, who says that racism in this country is not dead, only taking on new forms as it adapts to changes in society.

While neither the concept of dog-whistle politics nor the phenomenon of single-issue voters is new, Haney López re-frames the debate in terms of race and its impact on our widening political divide and growing economic inequality. [...]

Haney López catalogues evolving dog-whistle topics as racism continues to adapt — the attack on public schools, the xenophobic warnings about competition from China, and even expanding the definition of “white” to include Latinos much as it earlier expanded from a narrow Anglo-Saxon base to include southern Europeans.

The best antidote to this coded racism, the author concludes, is to call it out for what it is, ignoring the catcalls that doing so is playing the race card.

Civil-rights organizations must continue to fight for racial justice, which is far from being achieved simply because the first black president has been elected. Unions must enter that space where race and poverty intersect.

Above all, the author contends, there must be an effort to restore liberalism. This may mean supporting Democrats for the most part, but Democratic politicians have been known to resort to dog-whistle politics, too.