UC Berkeley Scholar: Republicans Stoke ‘White Racial Anxiety for Political Gain’

by College Fix Staff on November 29, 2012

A prominent UC Berkeley diversity scholar accused Republican politicians of “stoking white racial anxiety for political gain” and using “coded phrases … to transmit signals to a right-wing, resentful white base.”

John Powell, executive director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley, is the lead author on the 2,000-plus word piece, also co-signed by three others, including Eva Paterson, president of the Equal Justice Society.

The “open letter to African-Americans,” posted recently on The Berkeley Blog, is a call to action of sorts to the black community, and states in part that:

The right wing can talk about Obama as a food stamp president or how he may not really be American. We knew such attacks on the president and the black community often had serious racial overtones. Yet, if this observation was made, not only would they deny these accusations, they would cry foul: that critics were playing “the race card.” With the heat turned up we would, too often, shrink from the conversation.

… We should no longer let the right-wing control the racial narrative about us or the president while we quietly express frustration, but remain publicly invisible. We must talk about race and other issues that affect us, but in a skillful manner. But we also need to go beyond talk and move to action. …

While many Democrats have tried to avoid discussions of race, some Republicans have been stoking white racial anxiety for political gain. This has been the most extreme in the South, so much so that at one point the chairman of the Republican National Committee acknowledged that they were deliberately stoking racial anxiety and resentment toward blacks to activate their base and generate support. This approach has been labeled the “Southern Strategy”, which has been used to drive the South into the right wing camp of the Republican Party since the ‘60s. More recently, the approach has been called dog whistle racism, where coded phrases are used to transmit signals to a right-wing, resentful white base that politicians are sensitive to and even supportive of their racial resentment, while at the same time having a position of deniability for more moderate whites.

President Reagan gave his first post-convention speech of his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where civil rights workers had been killed, promising to restore “states rights” and local control. Similarly talk of food stamps, welfare, government dependence and the inner city have all been used as a dog whistle to resentful whites.

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