Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dog Whistle Politics by Ian Haney Lopez

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 to read as I pondered the contents. As I read an examination of policies I'd long heard explained with twisted logic that never sounded quite right, I realized I've been mislead by half-truths and misrepresentation of facts. This particularly surprised me in regards to some historical policies that were conveniently glossed over or completely absent from my history classes. This book also answered questions for me about how people I think of as generally non-racist and who consider themselves non-racist say and do things that are so obviously race driven. This deeper understanding made me stop and think about my own life and how I perceive the world around me. As I read Lopez's words skewering Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, and liberals as well as those who forego any of those labels for engaging in dog whistle politics, I felt despair at times and hope at other times. Lopez encourages us to recognize dog whistle politics and dog whistle attitudes that incite needless fear, so perhaps we can begin to grow past the divisions that are so constantly thrust upon us. Still the question remains... Can we? Lopez points out the problems we face in a book that challenges preconceptions of what it means to be "colorblind" and "post-racial" as he points out the use of fear and stereotypes to keep people separated. As I read Dog Whistle Politics, I felt sickened at times, hopeful at others, angry at times, and filled with love at others. I hope this book reaches an audience beyond those who already understand and agree with its contents. In this examination of the history and continuation of dog whistle politics, Lopez asks us to seek understanding and make a plan for a better future together. Even as Dog Whistle Politics attempts to examine and educate the effects of dog whistle politics on the United States from myriad points of view, Lopez never apologizes for taking a stance against the use of dog whistle politics to keep us separated and unequal.