It’s the end of 2016 and president-elect Donald Trump will be giving his inauguration speech to the world, a little over a month from now. As I witness most humans running into each other trying to figure out who to blame for this political disaster at hand, I have been coming up with an answer of my own. If the past two years of fake news, the spreading of propaganda, and Trump’s continuous racial “anti-everything but America” rhetoric was not enough, crawling inch by inch through the 2016 presidential elections, we must now go face-to-face with a shockwave of destruction that has been left behind from this chaotic moment in history, that will continue to affect us for many years to come. Left behind by a country scarred deep with racial tensions, atrocities, and generations left to ask the question “What do we do now?”.
Donald Trump’s electoral victory over Hillary Clinton caught the whole world by surprise, a surprise that I foresaw a long time ago. In fact, I have even concluded that, Trump’s victory was not necessarily a bad thing at all. How could this be? Well, throughout my paper I plan on exploring this question, as well as the statements; what is Dog Whistle Politics, how did it come about, and how, on a massive scale, did it seal Donald Trump’s victory? A massive scale that some say, has not been seen since the days of George Wallace throughout the late 1960’s and early 70’s.
WHAT IS DOG WHISTLE POLITICS?Dog Whistle Politics, also known as Dog Whistle Racism or Coded Racism, is an evolved form of racism that politicians use. It is a coded language that targets the white working middle class to secure political wins. This coded language allows politicians, who are connected to concentrated wealth, to distort racial lures to capture elections and win support for atavistic policies that not only help corporations and the super-wealthy, but also wreck the middle class (Lopez, 2014). To better understand Dog Whistle Politics, we can compare it to an actual dog whistle that a dog trainer would use. When someone blows a dog whistle, only the dog can hear it and recognize it. Same when a politician uses Dog Whistle Politics. When politicians speak in this coded racial language they are targeting a group and only that group can understand the dog whistle. The group we are referring to here, is the group of the white middle class in America. Why would politicians target the white middle class? It’s an open secret that the U.S. has averaged a 75-85% white population (Gibson & Jung, 2005), since the horrific gross genocide that was committed against our Native American brothers and sisters. However, the non-Hispanic white population is experiencing a slight decrease for many reasons, one of them being baby boomers, mainly white, are starting to fill up the graveyards. Also, note that the white population will remain steady because of the increasing influxes of Hispanics identifying as whites (Staff, 2011).
Therefore, it is easy for white or white-like people today to try and claim that there is no racism and that white, black, brown, and native humans are on the streets fighting for nothing. That however, is an illusion, fallacy, and fantasy that they wished they lived in. They just use the excuse and spread anti-nonwhite propaganda, that the non-Hispanic white population is declining and that they are going through a mythical gruesome racial genocide of the white population, when in fact it’s the opposite (Brodie, 2013).In other words, Dog Whistle Politics is coded political racism, backed by extraordinary wealth, used to gain white middle class votes, to win elections, and enforce policies that go against the intentions of the voters and furthermore wreck chaos throughout the middle class.
HOW DID DOG WHISTLE POLITICS ORIGINATE IN THE US?To find out where Dog Whistle Politics originated, we must go back to the 1940-50’s and zoom in on a human named George Wallace. During these years, George Wallace was a trial court judge in Alabama and throughout the 40’s and 50’s could be classified as a, Bernie Sanders kind of guy. Just to name a few notable actions of George Wallace, he sat on the board of trustees of a prominent black educational enterprise, called the Tuskegee Institute. He refused to join the walkout of Southern delegates from the 1948 Democratic convention when they protested the adoption of a civil rights platform. Also, notable, during his trial judge years, Wallace earned a reputation for treating black humans above superior white standards. In 1958, J.L. Chestnut, one of the few black lawyers in Alabama at the time said that, Wallace was the first white judge to call him “Mister” in a courtroom. During these times, it was standard to call all black humans by their first name, regardless of age or status. (Lopez, 2014) When George Wallace first ran as Governor of Alabama in 1958, he was endorsed by the NAACP while his running opponent was being endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. George Wallace ended up losing with his opponent claiming his lose was from “being too soft on the race questions at the time”. This lose did not sit well at all with Wallace. The same night of his lose, before he gave his defeat speech to his supporters, he sat in his car with his buddies and said “Well, boys. No other son-of-a-bitch will ever out-nigger me again”. (Lopez, 2014) However, this did not heed Wallace from giving up, on the contrary it sparked the opposite reaction. In 1963, just four years later, Wallace ran for Governor again and won. This time running as an open racist bigot, who openly courted the support of the KKK, and dedicated himself to standing in the door way of integration. An excuse that Wallace gave for his extreme racists ideological flip-flop was, “you know, I started off talking about schools and highways and prisons and taxes – and I couldn’t make them listen. Then I began talking about niggers – and they stomped the floor”. During his inauguration speech, he stated, “Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. And segregation forever.” He received his chance to stand in the door way of integration in June 1963. Alabama University was set to integrate its first black students. (Lopez, 2014)
George Wallace seized this opportunity to show his supporters that he was not all talk. When Wallace showed up 2 hours before the student’s arrival and stood in the doorway and read a 7-minute speech in front of 200 national reporters, he was not actually there to stop anyone from entering the school. During this 7 minute, historical speech that changed the face of racism as we know it, he did not use open racist language of racial supremacy that his supporters were used to. Instead what Wallace did was talk in Dog Whistle Politics. He blamed integration on an overreach in government power and that these were unwarranted actions that must be stopped to preserve our constitution. After his speech, he left. Yes, he left, it was all a show. That same week, from across the nation, over 100,000 telegrams poured into Wallace’s lap. (Lopez, 2014)
Did these letters shun Wallace for his actions or did they embrace him? About 5% of those letters shunned Wallace for what he stood for, the other 95% praised him. Wallace then recognized that hatred towards black humans was not solely based on Southern myths of hateful whites who lost the Civil War. No, these letters came from all over the country resulting in another one of Wallace’s famous quotes as follows. “They all hate black people, all of them. They’re all afraid, all of them. Great god! That’s it! They’re all Southern. The whole United States is Southern”. Wallace essentially created Dog Whistle Politics or coded racism without knowing it. He figured out that he no longer had to be an open racist to achieve white supremacy or political career gains. (Lopez, 2014)This is something Donald Trump struggles with and has failed to recognize or acknowledge. One could also say that Trump cannot comprehend the two differences of racism and racial, let alone know what racism is to begin with.
HOW DID DOG WHISTLE POLITICS SEAL TRUMP’S VICTORY?When we are talking about Dog Whistle Politics, we must recognize that we are talking about “racism” and not “racial” terminology. We must recognize that racism does not mean racial or race. Racism is a noun and racial is an adjective. These are not interchangeable. We know that an adjective modifies nouns and therefore, may seem less alarming when we describe a person, place, or thing relating to racial terminology rather than referring to a person, place, or thing as inherently characterized as racist. Which at once suggest that, because of this more secure feeling of using “racial” instead of “racism” it’s safe to say, that not using the terms racist or racism could be considered a rationalization of white supremacy. A rationalization Donald Trump used to gain white middle class votes. We must also consider that, for there to be racism, there must be power involved. (Cottom, 2016)
Stokely Carmichael said it best, “If a white man wants to lynch me then that’s his problem. But if a white man wants to lynch me and has the power to lynch me, then that’s my problem”. As we look back throughout the past 2,000 years, we can clearly identify who has had power on a world scale. Native genocide, black slavery, and white supremacy ruled the earth during these years and still does. So, who is to say that white supremacy has ended or fails to exist? The media? Trump supporters whom are majority uneducated, per exit polls (Huang, Jacoby, Strickland, & Lai, 2016)? Your parents who want to be colorblind to world atrocities, so they can live a peaceful life? Who has the right to say, white supremacy and racism does not exist? I believe nobody has that right and for people to demand such unthinkable ideologies, they need help the most out of all the world.
Throughout Donald Trump’s racial rhetoric of a presidential candidacy, for the past two years, we witnessed open, coded, and many other forms of political and national racism to secure white domination. And throughout this rhetoric, we were forced by the media and white society that Donald Trump’s racism is a norm and should be accepted. If we go back to the comparison of “racial” and “racism”, we can see that the media did not use the words “racism” or “racist” when talking about Donald Trump (Cottom, 2016). Instead, they chose to describe Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric in “racial” terms and not telling our nation the truth, that he is a racist, hell bent for white supremacy and nothing else.
Since we are talking about Dog Whistle Politics which is coded racism we can look at Donald Trump’s campaign, from his slogans to his supporters, all fed the dog whistle played by Donald Trump. Some notable slogans were “Make America Great Again” and “The Silent Majority”. To break these two slogans down and find the coded racism, we must first find out in what context are we talking. To separate us from using “racial” – of or about race – instead of “racism” we can say that racial is not racism and racism is not about race. “Everybody has race. And, that’s how we’re using it. Racism is about racial hatred, animus rooted in racial superiority beliefs that often justify the unfair allocation of resources, both cultural and material” (Cottom, 2016). Now let’s break down “Make America Great Again” and “The Silent Majority” to try to find the coded racism connected to it. First, we can ask ourselves, when was America great and why does the silent majority think it is not great anymore? I would argue that America was never great due to white supremacy, native genocide, and black slavery just to name a few. I believe that no matter how much good America does or did, it will never erase or cover up the millions of atrocities that it has and continues to commit against the world. Now in the eyes of a white middle class person, America was great any time a white man accomplished anything. That could reasonably mean that the entire existence of the US, white supremacy, and colonization of the world could be justified, solely because the white man accomplished it. There is no coincidence that President Barrack Obama ran for eight years, then a white racist man comes along, and suddenly wants to make “America great again”.
What about “The Silent Majority”? That could mean anything, right? Well to people who cannot hear the dog whistle, yes indeed it could mean anything. To Donald Trump’s supporters the silent majority simply means, the working middle class. They believe that the working class has been silent for too long against their enemy “the government” and now they need to be heard. Donald Trump, during his racist rhetoric, would time and time again remind his supporters that he would “cut taxes” yet never mention exactly who’s taxes he would be cutting. Therefore, fooling whites into thinking Donald Trump would be cutting taxes for the average person. This would be far from the “open” truth. Trump’s open plans are to cut taxes for the rich and wealthy which is part of Dog Whistle Politics.
Why would Donald Trump focus on telling everyone he wants to cut taxes but not mention whose taxes would be cut and why does the “silent majority” hate the government? If we go back to George Wallace, his whole Dog Whistle strategy was for white people to blame everything on the government instead of blaming natives, blacks, and brown humans. Why, because the government aided natives and nonwhites and “why should the government take my hard earn taxes dollars to help someone else?”. This is where education comes into play.Even though it seemed as if Donald Trump was targeting the silent majority or the middle class, he was also targeting whites who want to “make America great again”. Therefore, the silent majority really means “the white majority”. As discussed before, white people have been the majority in the US for hundreds of years. They have considered themselves silent during President Obamas eight years in the White House. We have now heard them loud and clear as their knight in shining armor, Donald Trump, leads the way with his racist rhetoric of building a wall to keep “rapist Mexicans” out, banning and identifying Muslims, and referring to black humans as “the blacks” (Cottom, 2016). These are only a few and very clear indications of racism yet “the silent majority” embraced these rhetoric’s with open arms hoping Donald Trump will cut their taxes by a few dollars, so it would not benefit nonwhites.
Now let’s analysis exit polls from the 2016 presidential election and compare them to the 2012 presidential election, to further back up my previous statements about the silent majority being white, middle class, and uneducated. These three targeted categories secured Donald Trump’s win as he blasted his Dog Whistle through a loud speaker to the masses, while the media refused to say anything was racist or had to do with racism (Cottom, 2016). When we talk about the white middle class, I could include “men” in this and say, Donald Trump was targeting white men who were of middle class status. But I can’t include men because Donald Trump naturally gained a 5% increase in male support (Huang, Jacoby, Strickland, & Lai, 2016), due to Hillary Clinton being his sole opponent for much of the presidential race. So, for now, let’s focus on the categories of white, middle class, and uneducated. Regarding power and racism, there are only 5 states in the United States that are below 50% non-Hispanic white population (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2016), let’s keep this in mind.
In 2016, Donald Trump and the Republicans gain a 1% non-Hispanic white, 7% black, 8% Hispanic/Latino, 11% Asian, and 1% other vote compared to 2012 elections (Huang, Jacoby, Strickland, & Lai, 2016). With this data, we can conclude that 120+ million Americans voted. Out of the 120+ million that voted and voted for Trump, 58% were non-Hispanic white, which comes out to 36 million whites out of the 62+ million who voted for Trump. 1% of 36 million turns out to be 360,000 non-Hispanic white votes gained for Trump. This 1% turns out to be more than the 7% black vote increase, which came out to be 347,000 black votes gained by Trump. Therefore, it is shameful to be a veteran of the United States and watch my country blame black humans for not voting, black humans have a choice to vote because they are no longer our slaves to demand of such temptations to become part of this white society. Black humans have been voting, if they want to, since the white man allowed them to vote and same goes with women.
So, who are these additional 360,000 non-Hispanic whites who came out by the droves to vote for Donald Trump? Well, if we go back to the exit polls we can find out clearly. They were between the ages of 18-29 and 45-64. 18-29 being millennials with a population of 90+ million, mainly white, and 45-64 being the baby boomer generation consisting of 70+ million people, mainly white (United States Census Bureau, 2015). With education by race, whites without a college degree voted for Trump at an increase of 14%. The middle class vote for Trump received an increase of 22% voters with incomes $49,999 or less annually, as the middle class leaned toward supporting Hillary Clinton. Why would the uneducated vote for Trump and the educated vote for Clinton? Well again, Trump wanted to cut taxes and never specified who’s taxes he wanted to cut. Therefore, the white “middle class” voted for Trump.
The point being, is that the middle class did not vote for Trump this time. It was in fact, the uneducated who thought they were the middle class and feared that taxes were too high and illegal aliens and lazy blacks wanted to take their tax dollars and jobs. These uneducated broke white voters, were the ones who sealed Trump’s victory by falling for, not only open bigotry and racist rhetoric but also, the silent killer we call Dog Whistle Politics as Batman and Robin being “colorblindness”. These two superheroes duo allows Donald Trump supporters, not only to be racist with Trump, but also have an easy defense to fall back on by saying, “this or that is not related to race” and “How is hating taxes and the government racists? So, I can’t be racist”.
We learned what Dog Whistle Politics means, where it came from, and how it helped Donald Trump become victorious over Hillary Clinton. We also explored the difference between racial and racism and broke down data from exit polls to explain white dominance and power. There are important details that I may have left out, due to limited resources and one of those resources being paper length and time. You must take this information that I have provided and conduct further research. Explore a little and go out of your boundaries and safe zones. To defeat and possible prevent another Trump from happening, we must educate ourselves and practice. Practice makes perfect and this will give you the tools to be able to recognize coded racism, have the strength to call it out, and possibly educate a lost human in a white world that seems completely whiteless. “A man cannot condemn himself, if he were to do that then he would have to enforce some sort of punishment on himself. Therefore, the United States cannot condemn itself.” – Stokely Carmichael
Brodie, N. (2013, June 24). Reports: Africa Check. Retrieved from Africa Check: https://africacheck.org/reports/are-white-afrikaners-really-being-killed-like-flies/
Cottom, T. M. (2016, November 19). DigitalSociologies: Tressiemc. Retrieved from Tressiemc: https://tressiemc.com/digitalsociologies/racism-with-no-racists-the-president-trump-conundrum/
Gibson, C., & Jung, K. (2005, February). Population: U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved from U.S. Census Bureau: https://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0076/twps0076.pdf
Huang, J., Jacoby, S., Strickland, M., & Lai, K. R. (2016, November 8). Politics: NYTimes. Retrieved from NYTimes: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/08/us/politics/election-exit-polls.html
Kaiser Family Foundation. (2016, March). State Indicator: KFF. Retrieved from KFF: http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/distribution-by-raceethnicity/?currentTimeframe=0
Lopez, I. H. (2014). Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism And Wrecked The Middle Class. New York: Oxford.
Staff, C. W. (2011, September 29). US Census: CNN. Retrieved from CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/29/us/census/
United States Census Bureau. (2015, June 25). Press Release: Census. Retrieved from Census: http://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-113.html
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