The Dog Whistle

In 1981 Lee Atwater, the famed Republican political operative, explained to an interviewer how his party had learned to exploit racial antagonism using dog whistles. “You start out in 1954 by saying ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.'” But by the late 1960s, “that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, ‘forced busing,’ ‘states’ rights,’ and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

The Dog Whistle is a whistle that, when blown, can only be heard by canines. Dogs have a higher range of audible sounds that their ears can detect due to their physiological makeup. 

The metaphorical Dog Whistle is a way to communicate a racial message with ambiguity. Therefore the speaker or communicator cannot be held responsible for Overt Racism. It is of the utmost importance to look and the actions of a person or organization to shave away the dross of rhetoric and expose the actual social, ideological worldview.  

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. Maya Angelou.

The chicanery behind the idea of the Dog Whistle lies in the identity of those who use it. Many of them are people of faith, scouting leaders, PTO leaders, bowling team members, softball teammates, members of both major political parties, etc. According to their conscious mores, they are absent of any racial prejudice on the surface. They view themselves as good people, and that disqualifies them of Dog whistle use. 

This mentality’s most cryptic point substantiates their participation in systemic racism as a whole, by an unconscious lean into their privilege as a guide. In essence, the dog whistle becomes the world in which many of the privileged live. The rebuttal is to blame the P.C. or Cancel Culture. At times some in this group even reach for some obscure argument that their first amendment rights are in peril.

Privilege comes into play by a subconsciousness that this kind of rhetoric would only be offensive to minorities and the more significant marginalized communities along with a few in the dominant culture. However, most whites would have no problem with this coded language in large part and would excuse it based upon the ambiguity. 

The Dog Whistle is dangerous because when sounded, it agitates the dog. The result of the provoking agitation can be a more aggressive dog. In the same way, the metaphorical Dog Whistle can provoke aggression of the targeted recipients. 

A 2006 intelligence assessment reveals that officials had concerns about the infiltration of police departments for years but failed to warn the public.
The Intercept Alice Speri September 29 2020, 11:30

For this reason, hate crimes are up. The FBI lists white supremacy groups as the most dangerous 

The Nation magazine has revealed that the FBI has just issued an internal intelligence report warning of an imminent “violent extremist threat” posed by far-right militias, including white supremacists. The report cites the 2021 inauguration as a “potential flashpoint.” In the memo, the FBI’s Dallas field office warns of a “significant increase of violent social media posts of several boogaloo adherents in Texas”

From power structures, law enforcement, and the eye-rolling fellow citizen at the neighborhood grocery store, is there any wonder why tensions are up? The Dog Whistle has America on the brink. Add in the stress of a worldwide pandemic, a crashed economy, xenophobia, and tribalism; it doesn’t take much for the Dog Whistle to agitate sensitive ears.

The job of each individual who is anti-racist dedicated to tearing down the wall of division is to stop the dog whistle. Stopping the Dog Whistle involves calling these code words out, educating communicators of these words, and exposing the real motivation behind them. Practice makes perfect by “Building the Bridge Together.”

Kevin Robinson Executive Director of Accord1

One Response to “The Dog Whistle”
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  1. […] etc. The racial reckoning of this past summer’s post-George Floyd lynching has led to Dog Whistles, which have taken many from the thought realm to becoming actual participants in the dark […]

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