These Republican Code Words Are How They Spread Racism Openly To Their Base

Racism isn’t as easy to pass off onto the American public these days as it used to be. In another era, using things like the n-word from a podium in the south may have been a viable way to get your point across to the bigots whose votes you needed, but in modern times and modern technology, those sentiments could easily derail your political career.

To get around this, Republicans, or the party of bigotry as I like to call them, have a language all their own when it comes to racism. We all know that they’ve replaced the n-word with “thug,” but is that enough? Certainly not. They need an array of code words and phrases to spread the kind of hatred they need the base to subscribe to, which is exactly what they’ve come up with.

A book called “Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class” by Ian Haney Lopez lays out the clever terms the GOP tends to use to stir racial tensions under the guise of fixing America, or more recently, making it “great” again. Here are some of the highlights. You’ll probably recognize the right-wing rhetoric immediately:

  • Welfare and food stamps – While they completely ignore the fact that the bulk of welfare and food stamp recipients are white residents of poverty-stricken red states, they push an agenda that makes it look like those programs are in place because of and for the benefit of minorities exclusively. “Then it becomes possible for conservatives to start painting welfare as a transfer of wealth to minorities,” Lopez says. Thus begat the “spread my worth ethic, not my wealth” crap you’ve probably seen posted by your crazy Uncle Rudy.
  • Illegal alien – Since this country was founded people have come here, some legally and some by any means necessary, to find a better life for themselves and their families. Many come from all over the world on travel and student visas and then decide to stay. Because we share a border with Mexico, brown people who speak Spanish are often the focus of this term, making it a safe haven for bigotry. Lopez remarked, “It’s racial rhetoric about Latinos that is now being couched in this seemingly racially neutral language, and harnessed to support fear to get people to support conservative policies.”
  • Cut Taxes – As Reagan began his crusade to make the rich richer, the idea of cutting taxes needed to be sold to people who wouldn’t benefit. By linking the term to the idea that less money would be funneled to minorities by slashing social programs (see welfare and food stamps above), Lopez says ” ‘We want to cut taxes’ … is a whole lot more abstract than, ‘N*gger, n*gger.’ “
  • Law and order – This can also include “law abiding” and “good guy.” By convincing their base for decades that only minorities commit crimes, it’s inferred that anything that has to do with lawlessness falls squarely on the shoulders of non-white people. Lopez points out that “What you see in the 1960s is that opposition to civil rights becomes ‘what we really need is law and order, to crack down’. ” That became glaringly apparent during the protests in Ferguson and Baltimore, where police responded in what appeared to be an aggressive manner to instigate unrest from peaceful protesters.
  • Sharia Law – With Islamophobia came the fear that the governing laws of a religion would become prevalent in our secular community. Sharia is a set of religious mandates, meaning they are unconstitutional in the United States, but that doesn’t stop the conservatives from using it to spread fear. Lopez puts it perfectly when he writes, “A prime example is Kansas prohibiting courts from drawing on Shariah law—it’s not a threat at all. The point isn’t the reality; it’s the racial frame. The point is, these brown Muslim people are infiltrating our country, so be afraid, and vote for politicians who will support the right wing.”
  • States’ Rights – Yet another conservative favorite. Introduced by Barry Goldwater, the idea that the states have the right to enact any legislation they want because of the 10th amendment started a trend that worked out well in 1861. Unfortunately, it led to a war that killed close to a million Americans. Red states still believe that they right to be intolerant because a majority of their voters are, even though the 14th amendment results in victories like legalized gay marriage. States don’t have the right to discriminate, but that won’t keep the conservative bastions from trying.
  • Inner City – Here’s a term that has become synonymous with “minorities.” While many inner cities, take for example South Boston, are just as white as they are black or Latino, conservatives have taken the term and turned it into an insult. As Lopez puts it, “You can’t publicly say black people don’t like to work, but you can say there’s an inner-city culture in which generations of people don’t value work.” That’s exactly how conservatives approach it, too. They don’t call into question the socioeconomic isolation of black communities since abolition and they don’t call into question the racial profiling and suspicion involved with belonging to the Latino community (see illegal immigrants above). They call it “inner city” and invoke images of gang violence and riots.

It’s a dirty game the Republicans play. They play it well.

Featured image via ericgerlach.com