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Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,031 ratings  ·  154 reviews
Campaigning for president in 1980, Ronald Reagan told stories of Cadillac-driving "welfare queens" and "strapping young bucks" buying T-bone steaks with food stamps. In trumpeting these tales of welfare run amok, Reagan never needed to mention race, because he was blowing a dog whistle: sending a message about racial minorities inaudible on one level, but clearly heard on ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 13th 2014 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published December 12th 2013)
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Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fascinating, incredible. Brilliantly articulated. I do not say this lightly, but this is a book EVERY undergraduate in this country should read. Not for the politics of it, but because I've never come across any other piece of writing that so cogently explains the way in which racism has transmogrified over the last half-century, how it is still so pervasive - perhaps even more so in some ways - and how it affects ALL of us.
Jan 23, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've taken some heated feedback on Amazon for my review (which follows). I stand by the review, and note that many/most of the negative reactions are paddling in the same river.

So here's the review:

The opening sentence of this screed betrays its bias: "Let's start with an open secret: Republicans rely on racial entreaties to help win elections."

If you are a Democrat who believes this is the unvarnished and complete truth, by all means buy it and reinforce your beliefs.
Robert Owen

“Dog Whistle Politics” is a book that’s too smart by half……which still makes it twice as smart as most books on race, earning it my rating of four stars.

First, the good.

López does a masterful job of articulating the nuances of modern racism and the arc of its history over the last half century. By “dog whistle politics” López is referring to conscious political strategies whereby latent white fears and insecurities about race are channeled into self-destructive anti-minority activism.

T.L. Cooper
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
I seriously underestimated how much Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism & Wrecked the Middle Class Ian Haney Lopez would affect me. As I started reading, I expected a rehashing of contents I already knew. While there was some of that, there was also information about the history of racism in the United States that I never fully knew. I expected to read the book quickly without the need to pause and think about what I read. Instead, the book took me quite a while ...more
While I have known about the history of coded racial appeals particularly in the political arena for quite some time, it is important that López provides fresh analysis on this issue and how it should be addressed. The conservative right will continue to use race and other cultural wedge issues to push their agenda. With the ever-increasing class divide in this country, the conservative right has no interest in closing the gap when it comes to the economic inequality of politically marginalized ...more
George Slade
Jan 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2015
Instead of rehashing what I've been posting about this book, for the review, I'll merely paste the letter I sent to the author.

Mr. Lopez,

I just finished reading "Dog Whistle Politics" today. I was deeply disturbed at what I read. I am disturbed that young, impressionable women and men will read this book and take it seriously. You're obviously intelligent and studious; however, you used your time and skills to generate a book that is
Feb 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Adam by: Han Flamm
What a nice coda in some ways to my law school experience.

I recall seeing Professor Haney Lopez give the Derrick Bell Lecture on Race in American Society as a first year law student at NYU. Shockingly, Haney Lopez, now a foremost critical race theorist, described how he stormed out to Professor Bell's class as a student, disturb by Bell's insistence on the permanence of racism in American society. Dog Whistle Politics starts off with this very same story, both the author's initial reaction to Pr
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bipoc-author
At first I wasn’t sure how relevant this book would feel to me considering it was published before the 2016 election, but it turns out dog whistle politics aren’t new at all, they’ve just become more overt in the Trump era. Haney-Lopez’s analysis of how politicians on both sides of the aisle have exploited the fear, anger, and suspicion of white people to garner votes and control the electorate provides useful context for people who are dismayed by the blatant bigotry they see in our country tod ...more
Randy Cauthen
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Not an awful lot new here if you've been paying attention, but Lopez is a good compendium how the right has used race baiting tactics to undermine the middle class in this country and advance the interests of the very rich, and how the Democrats have failed to effectively fight their demagoguery, largely through a mistaken policy of color blindness.
Roger Leonhardt
Dec 18, 2015 rated it did not like it
A book about racism from a person who is himself a racist. He believes all white people are racist and that every problem in society is because of that white racism. His answer to racism is even more racism. He sees everything as a zero sum game. The only way to bring someone up is to tear someone else down. That is ludicrous. We are all created equal and should all be treated that way, no matter what color we are. My mom always said two wrongs don't make a right.

We do have a problem of racism.
Nov 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bill Moyers
Much like The New Jim Crow and Miner’s Canary, this book eviscerates the idea that modern “colorblindness” is really about racial equality, both in intent and in its fruits. It firmly asserts that most people who have embraced colorblindness aren’t bad people, just ignorant of history and its consequences. Lucid and well cited. Could have used more concrete advice on how to frame the conversation with these not-bad people about how they are on the wrong side of history.
Mar 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Earlier this year, Richard Sherman, a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, taped a post-game interview in which he called out a player from the opposing team and pronounced himself "the best corner in the game," adding, "Don't open your mouth about the best, or I'm going to shut it for you real quick!" The video went viral, and in the days that followed it seemed as though people could focus on little else. Unfortunately, much of the public discourse made liberal use of the term "thug," an insin ...more
Greg Brozeit
Feb 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
An uneven but ultimately informative account and call to action to address the racism that provides the foundation for much of today's American political scene. I think this book could be considered the third volume of a trilogy that includes Douglas Blackmon's Slavery By Another Name and Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow .

Lopez's definition of three core components that form dog whistle politics--hate, structural racism and implicit bias--is helpful and insightful. He predictably rec
Mar 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
I'm familiar with the concept of Dog Whistle" messaging. An idea is communicated with carefully crafted words and phrases, and for some the terminology is couched in emotional meaning. And to others it may simply be so many words. The intended message is only heard by some, just as a dog whistle is heard by dogs, but not humans. Lopez has concentrated on how race has been used for 50 years to further the political goals of many politicians, especially but not exclusively in the Republican Party. ...more
Mar 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
Ian Haney López’s Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism & Wrecked The Middle Class analyzes the history of political rhetoric since the civil rights era. In essence, Lopez argues that despite claims of living in a post-racial society, appeals to racism are alive and well.

López presents an intriguing assessment on racism, suggesting that there is more to racism than mere bigotry: i.e. many racists are decent people who have come to accept racial disparities and no
Nov 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Made me think. Most people who have followed electoral politics in recent years knows about the "birthers" who believe President Obama is not a US citizen and therefore is not the legitimate President of the United States. Lopez takes the reader through this and much more, looking at how campaigns use "coded" language to demean people of different skin colors and classes than perhaps the audience that the campaigns are speaking to.
The book is a mostly chronological look at campaigns and preside
Dec 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I found Dog Whistle Politics utterly fascinating, horrifying and heartbreaking all at the same time. Lopez defines dog whistling as "inaudible and easily denied in one range, yet stimulating strong reactions in another." Lopez dissects how dogwhistling started in the 1960s and let to the Republican party becoming the white man's party. He is even handed though and takes Democrats to take as well.

His explanation and analysis of why being "color-blind" is actually harmful is one of the best I've
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I actually wanted to give this book four and a half stars. My half-star "demerit" is for two minor quibbles: one, that he has a tendency to repeat himself, and two, his seemingly arbitrary enlargement of the middle-class to encompass not just the working class or "working poor", but the very poor as well.

However, those minor complaints notwithstanding, I think everyone should read this book - blacks, whites, liberals and conservatives. Besides the usual suspects of Wallace, Nixon and Lee Atwater
Ryn McAtee
I sincerely hope that Lopez began rewriting this book in the middle of last year, and we'll see an updated version on the shelves by 2017 or the year after. After five decades of dog whistle politics, it's culminated in Donald Trump, who uses not a dog whistle, but a bullhorn. Reading this book three years after its publication isn't a long time in the grand scheme of things, but politically, it's been an eternity and things have mutated quite drastically. I'd really love to see Lopez's explanat ...more
Dec 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my top five books all time.

Easy to read, yet comprehensive and detailed. Dog Whistle Politics shows how politicians on both sides use coded messages, mostly racial, to trigger habitual fear reactions, convincing the poor and middle class to give up their power to the manipulative rich in exchange for economic and political slavery.

I found the information both fascinating and embarrassing. We need more truth in the world, and books like this are an essential start in that direction.
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Lopez uncloaks covert racist language in contemporary American politics. Tough reading, because of the painful realities of racism still active and hurting so many and betraying the great American promise of equality and justice for all. Particularly important for those who may be skeptical about Lopez' thesis, and for all of us needing to engage these issues and make sure every one's lives matter.
Jacqueline Masumian
Apr 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
So far I've only read the introduction to this fine book, but if anyone seeks an explanation for the horrifying result of the 2016 US election, this tells the tale, or at least part of it. It's tragic that voters can get bamboozled so easily and work against their own interests without realizing it.
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a grim but worthwhile overview of how the GOP's Southern Strategy. Given that Trump has massive support when under his tax plan middle-income taxpayers would see a savings of just two-tenths of 1 percent and the wealthiest would receive a 5 percent cut, Ian Haney Lopez's arguments are sadly on target.
Dec 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating and important book. It took me a long time to finish, as there was hardly a sentence that I did not want to commit to memory. This is a must read for anyone who is interested in understanding and addressing the racial injustices in the US.
Mar 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I found this book by turns fascinating, illuminating, and infuriating. I find it’s conclusions so dispiriting that I am having trouble even writing about it, and yet if what it asserts is true it is far better it sees the light of day than if we continue to sweep it under the rug. In a nutshell this is a history of racism in politics. It’s thesis is simple; racism isn’t disappearing, it’s adapting. The author traces racism as a political tool from the period after reconstruction when the South w ...more
Jul 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
An in depth accounting of what Lopez calls 'strategic racism'. This is the use of racial appeals, not necessarily out of animosity or hatred towards specific groups, but to elicit an emotional response from the audience for strategic political ends. This has migrated from the overt racism of the Jim Crow era and Goldwater campaign to implied coded language of today against blacks, gays and Muslims to rally a white base on 'social issues'. These white audiences tend to abhor traditional racism, a ...more
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: racial-justice
I had been meaning to read this for a long time and am so glad I did. I knew about the concept of dog-whistle politics and dog-whistle racism, but it is definitely worth reading, even if you are familiar with those concepts. The analysis, explanation, and examples bring so much more to it and there were many places where I feel it crystalized ideas or concepts that I've heard/read before, but in a really accessible and easy to re-articulate way. I definitely recommend it.
Lance Eaton
To understand how racism has permeated politics for the last fifty years, even though so many politicians openly disavow it, then Haney-Lopez's book is a fantastic primer on understanding America's coded racism. He used the term, "dog whistle politics" to explain that since the 1950s and 1960s with the rise of Geroge Wallace, Richard Nixon, and William F. Buckley have purposely looked to code race by relying upon or making associations between negative imagery (Willie Horton ad), soundbites ("we ...more
Yuvi S Sandhu
Nov 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book after I finished Derrick Bell's book "Faces at the bottom of the well". Both these books were recommended to me by my philosophy professor, and at the time I really thought these two individuals made great points, but I never really agreed with them completely on their main fundamental point because I thought its was too pessimistic- I now think I just didn't was to face reality. I started this book in the last 2 months of the 2016 election and finished the day after ...more
Dec 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
The first third of the book was brilliant, but then it got a bit repetitive. It's worth reading in order to decode all the racial dog whistling. It probably could use an update now that some of the racism is just out in the open,
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