11 May 2015

The Dog Whistle

There's one sure-fire way to tell when people enjoy privilege they don't even realize they have.  When people who don't have the same privilege get a piece of it, the ones who already have such privilege howl with outrage.  They see themselves as persecuted, and the ones who've gained a little bit of parity with them as menaces who are infringing upon their "rights".

Jeb Bush--who is widely expected to declare his candidacy for the Republican nomination to next year's Presidential election--said that Obama is using his "coercive power" to "limit religious freedom". 

When right-wing politicians talk like that, you know they--and their audiences--are thinking in particular of same-sex marriage.  It's almost as if such whining about "religious freedom" or the persecution Christians supposedly face are really just codes for their abhorrence that LGBT people are finally being allowed to live the kinds of lives straight and cisgender people have always taken for granted.

Really, it's no different from how some politicians--in some cases, the very same ones who feel so threatened by same-sex marriage--talk about "states' rights" or "the inner city" when they want to work their audiences into a lather about people darker than themselves getting the opportunities, and the same avenues of redress, they have.  In other words, it's how they talk about race without mentioning it.

Ian Haney Lopez refers to the use of such coded language--whether it's about blacks, gays, trans people or Muslims--"dog whistle politics" in his book by that name.  Hmm...What does that say about those who use it--or, worse, those who sit up and pay attention when they hear it?

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