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This edition: Ian Haney López on the Dog Whistle Politics of Race

Episode Details

Original tape date: February 28, 2014.

First aired: March 10, 2014.

Author and legal scholar Ian Haney López joins Bill to talk about dog whistle politics and how racism has changed in America since the civil rights era. The dog whistle of racism, says Ian Haney López, is “the dark magic” by which middle-class voters have been seduced to vote against their own economic interests. Politicians have mastered the use of dog whistles – code words that turn Americans against each other while turning America over to plutocrats.

And yet, “Dog whistle politics doesn't come out of animus at all.” López tells Moyers. “It doesn't come out of some desire to hurt minorities. It comes out of a desire to win votes. And in that sense, I want to start using the term strategic racism. It's racism as a strategy. It's cold, it's calculating, it's considered, it's the decision to achieve one's own ends, here winning votes, by stirring racial animosity.”

“And here's a hard, difficult truth. Most racists are good people,” he claims. “They're not sick. They're not ruled by anger or raw emotion or hatred. They are complicated people reared in complicated societies. They're fully capable of generosity, of empathy, of real kindness. But because of the idea systems in which they're reared, they're also capable of dehumanizing others and occasionally of brutal violence.”

Ian Haney López, a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, is a senior fellow at the policy analysis and advocacy group, Demos.

Guest List

Ian Haney López Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley

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