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Wow, so many people all over the US with basically the same experience. For those interested in the history of this phenomenon, I strongly recommend the book "Sundown Towns":


My hazy understanding of American racism, which I now know to be wrong, was that it's always been getting better. Sure, slavery, but then the Civil War and an upward climb from there to the Civil Rights era and beyond. Except for the South, I thought.

It turns out the US had period after Reconstruction, know as the Nadir [1], when anti-black sentiment and action grew significantly. A wave of ethnic cleansing circa 1890-1920 led to a lot of all-white towns all over the country, ones where non-whites weren't allowed after dark. (Thus the title of the book.)

Chapter 11, "The Effect of Sundown Towns on Whites", talks a lot about how growing up in white-only areas leads white people to have enormously distorted perceptions of the dangers of black people. After reading that chapter, the RacistDoor phenomenon made a lot more sense to me.

[1] https://www.google.com/search?client=ubuntu&channel=fs&q=the...

This is a most excellent book about Reconstruction from firsthand accounts. This country would have been a far different place if the federal government had seen its responsibility through.


Also, Sundown Towns May have been at their most extreme in the South. But a look at Bay Area housing deeds from the 1940s will show that these neighborhoods were also explicitly seeking to keep non-whites out. Via explicit provisions that a house was not to be sold to or occupied by non-whites, unless they were the help.

Oh, perhaps I misspoke. The "sundown town" phenomenon was strongest outside the South. It happened all over the US.

It's hard to say if the civil war was even an upward climb. I've been reading a lot of Ta-Neshi Coates recently and he has opened my eyes. The civil war was started by the south in order to allow them to continue exploiting the labour of slaves. It seems those grievances haven't died.

Racism and, more importantly, white supremacy is an all-American concept which seems to be inextricably woven through the whole society.

https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/537909/ - highly recommend this.

My hair is starting to think about peppering itself with white, so I wasn't born yesterday, but I've spent about 1/3 of my adult life in Asia (primarily Japan), about 1/3 in the North of the US split between Yankee-land and the Rocky Mountain region, and about 1/3 in "the South".

In the Rocky Mountain region that I was in (and that I was born in), there was no history of slavery or any sort of modern diversity (it was all coal-miners, oil-drillers, and ranchers all the time), so I think we can take that one off the table. As we can Japan - because their issues with racism are different from ours (in the US).

That leaves good old Yankee-land and "the South". I am by birth and by culture, not a Southerner, but I will declare that if anyone sees more racism in Shreveport LA (for example) than they do in Chicago or even Terre Haute IN, that is a person that I would assert has never been to the south. I believe generally (based on a whole lotta anecdotal observation - some of which are turning my aging locks white), that Y2K Yankee-land is far more racist than Y2K Dixie. I don't know what it was like in 1960 - the race riots of Detroit in '68 - white flight to the suburbs - any of that. But I do believe that you are giving your own region a pass and the south a diss if you believe that they are more racist than you.

EDIT: And it isn't necessarily germane to my parent comment, but I see a lot of use of the phrase "dog-whistle" with no specifics. Can we see more specifics, so that the lesser aware of us can know what you are even talking about, or even get educated on what constitutes a "dog-whistle"?

> But I do believe that you are giving your own region a pass and the south a diss if you believe that they are more racist than you.

This was definitely a lesson I learned. I grew up in the midwest, and because racism of the Jim Crow sort was more blatant in the south, I thought we were relatively innocent. But I no longer think that.

As an example, I got a reproduction of the Negro Motorist Green Book. [1] It was a good exercise trying to imagine planning one of the road trips I've been on, but only staying at the small number of places that would accept black people.

I also learned from that book that there was one town in Michigan where well-off black people went to vacation: Idlewild. [2] It was created because black people in Chicago and Detroit were excluded from other vacation spots. I grew up not far from this place and nobody ever mentioned the history to me. Not accidental, I'm sure, that white people forgot all about it.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Negro_Motorist_Green_Book

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idlewild,_Michigan


"Dog-whistle politics is political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup."

Lingua Franca had an interesting example recently - http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2017/09/28/the-s...

“The man should be in a pub on the banks of the Liffey.”

On the subject of recent struggle for equality - I strongly recommend watching "the black power mixtape 1967-1975":


I believe it's available on Netflix.

> And it isn't necessarily germane to my parent comment, but I see a lot of use of the phrase "dog-whistle" with no specifics

Quick, let's do some free association and tell me the first skin color that comes to mind: thugs, real americans, inner-city youth, hard-working american, welfare queen, illegal immigrant.

You are telling me that "welfare queen" is supposed to make me think of white trailer trash in my neighborhood? Surely not. You are trying to tell me that the phrase is supposed to make me think in racist terms, right?

If so, then, alright, the only thing on your list that makes me think of somebody that might be darker beige than me (I assume this is where you are trying to go?) is illegal immigrant, where I do assume "Mexican born national". Is that racist, or just a recognition of how our borders go and the fact that few Canadians come to the US to pick our tomatoes?

> You are trying to tell me that the phrase is supposed to make me think in racist terms, right?

No, "dog-whistle" terms seem mundane and can be played off as having the dictionary definition, but to certain people they have a very specific meaning. Your neighbor might say he wants to keep "thugs" out of your neighborhood, which you can naively infer to mean "violent criminals," but to other racists it's a synonym for "niggers." Or maybe you do know what he means, so you call him on it... and he asserts that it just means "violent criminals." That's what makes a dog-whistle.

Oh. I see what you mean.

I see enough references to the phrase (like: "everyone knows this is a dog-whistle for xyz") that I started to wonder if that phrase wasn't in itself, in certain contexts, a form of virtue-signaling itself. Maybe I was wrong.

Q: How is it that all the anti-racists know all the code-words that make up a dog whistle for racists? Isn't it supposed to be, by definition, unhearable?

I doubt we all know all of them. But they tend to persist for long periods, and so are easily discoverable by reverse engineering speeches. It helps that some people are quite explicit about it. Either in historical retrospect, as with the Atwater quote here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_strategy#Evolution_.2...

Or with "saying the quiet parts loud", where people who aren't as good at dog whistling drift into being more explicit. Or people who are explicit get pushed into saying things where the racial connection is more easily denied. The Trump administration's Muslim ban is good example of that. They started out advocating for a ban with strong religious and racial components. When the public and the courts said no, they iterated to something less blatant. They will keep rinsing and repeating until something gets through.

I would guess that the answer is that not all anti-racists know all the code-words. Thug, urban, inner-city and so on are all known because they're the most used.

To contrast, I used to have a couple of friends who would use the term "friend" as a stand in for n* when talking about people in public. I figured it out from being around them and hearing how they stressed it differently than normal, but any random stranger wouldn't have picked up on it.

The same way we decode any phrase that has a coded meaning. I assume you can understand irony, jokes, and satire, dog whistle phrases are no different.

I left the country for a while, and when I got back, I was no good at picking those up either. But I do understand your point.(I think)

> You are trying to tell me that the phrase is supposed to make me think in racist terms, right?

No, I am saying the phrase is meant to be interpreted in a racial context by the target audience while passing off as non-racial. Non of the phrases I listed are racial by the dictionary definition.

The difference between a dog-whistle and a regular whistle is that dog-whistles are inaudible to humans and go unnoticed, hence the "dog-whistle" tag for such coded language.

It's not free association if you are telling me to think of a skin color while listing stereotypes.

Let's see...thugs=wall street(white). real Americans=cherokee(brown). hard-working american=Hispanic(brown). Welfare queen=goldman sacks(gold). Illegal immigrant=columbus(white).

Coates is unabashedly biased and not a great source.

Racism and, more importantly, white supremacy is an all-American concept

This is ridiculously narrow conception of slavery and racism. Slavery is neither "American" nor "white" - it's an insidious and evil institution that has been imposed on a wide number of people and races, even during the American/European slave period.

An even larger African slave trade existed in the Middle East and North Africa. Even the word "Slave" is derived from "Slav" - my people - who were enslaved by Spanish Muslims. In fact, slavery still exists and thrives in parts of Sudan and Benin today. Not the mention the massive amounts of slaves that existed in South East Asia or the fact that slavery was an established institution in the Americas much before Europeans came here.

There were more slaves in India than there were in the entire western-hemisphere. China had slavery as recently as 1949 (they didn't outlaw it until 1910) and was recently embroiled in a slave controversy in 2007! (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Chinese_slave_scandal)

In fact, it's Western-European society that has largely been critical of slavery, as they were the first nations to outlaw it (Denmark and Britain), and have organized against Slavery while many countries around the world were still practicing slavery (see the 1926 Slavery Convention held by the League of Nations)

You have done an excellent job responding to a point almost entirely unrelated to the one you quoted.

He was talking about white supremacy, not slavery. And the phrase "all-American concept" does not mean that America invented it. He means that it's intrinsic, pervasive.

Which is pretty obviously true. America was white supremacist from the get-go. If not, we wouldn't have needed the 15th amendment, which came circa a century late. We wouldn't have needed 8 different civil rights acts (so far). The notion of whiteness is something America helped create and is continually redefining so as to help maintain white supremacy.

Thank you.

The other reply to you did a pretty good job of taking down your hand-wavy argument about slavery, so I want to pick up on your first sentence.

I'd urge you to reconsider the way you view sources and the media.

"Coates is unabashedly biased and not a great source."

This is a non-sequitur and a misdirection tactic commonly used by people who want to try and discredit arguments without actually achieving anything of the sort. Much like you've done.

"Bias" is not an issue. Legitimacy is. Can we trust Coates writing about race? The question really expands to, can we trust an erudite and eloquent black man with a lot of lived experience, to contextualize and write about that experience? I don't see why we shouldn't. I imagine both of us have much less to offer the debate than Coates, so why not trust Coates?

Or maybe America is actually far less racist than it was during the Civil War and opponents are magnifying what remains to try to make unjustifiable claims.

Can you cite any evidence or well-reasoned analysis to support this conjecture? The piece linked in the comment you replied to lays out a pretty rigorous case to the contrary.

So you want an entire rundown US history post-1865? If you want a social critique of the modern liberal "Euro-Critical" conception of racism and slavery, I'll refer you to Thomas Sowell's excellent collection of essays in "Black Rednecks and White Liberals"

Sure. Let's just agree on a definition of racism and how to measure it (hint: we won't).

And there's nothing rigorous about the piece linked.

Well, if you say so...

Or maybe anonymous people on the internet are throwing out entirely unevidenced possible explanations in a attempt to cloud the issue.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is extremely racist.

Are you seriously disputing that being free is better than being a slave or is that just hyperbole?

Be reminded that the 13th amendment didn't completely end slavery; it permitted it "as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted," and that more black men are restrained by the "criminal justice" system today in the US than were enslaved prior in 1850.

"and that more black men are restrained by the "criminal justice" system today in the US than were enslaved prior in 1850."

Worth noting that the U.S. population has grown significantly since 1850. I'd be more interested in the relative numbers (e.g. the percentage of black men incarcerated today v. the percentage enslaved before 1850).

It's true that rates of enslavement have decreased since the end of the Civil War. But it's disgusting that our common vernacular talks about an institution that ended over 150 years ago when in fact it is still very much alive and generating enormous profits for the people who choose to exploit it.

If you want straight-up hard numbers, I can't recommend any resource more then DrugWarFacts:



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