Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class addresses numerous aspects of racial tensions in the United States as they relate to the actions (or inaction) of those in positions of political power, including President Obama.
What are the author’s criticisms of Obama’s policies during his first term?
In Chapter 9, the author focuses on what he terms President Obama's post-racial strategy. He explains his views that Obama "sidestepped" the issue of race with his first-term policies, thus tacitly reinforcing the so-called dog whistle politics being perpetuated by Republican politicians and many Democrats. Haney-López's primary argument is that by not doing enough to address the issues underlying dog whistle politics in his first term, Obama himself became complicit in reinforcing that narrative. Throughout the book, the author takes the view that if someone is in a position of power, he or she has the responsibility not only to refrain from actively participating in dog whistling but to stop it wherever possible as well.
In addition to a lack of active participation in decoding racial appeals made by other politicians, Haney-López also criticizes the President's lack of intervention in racialized mass incarceration during his first term. He view's Obama's post-racial policies as a hindrance to addressing issues such as the mass incarceration of racial minorities. The author also addresses the various ways in which the public and media fed into the post-racial narrative with belief that the election of an African-American President would mean an end to racism. In this sense, the author argues that Obama's first term led to complacency among those who believed that racial tensions in the country would be solved simply through his election and without the need for direct policy changes
The Gates Affair
The Gates Affair refers to the arrest of a well-known African American Harvard professor named Henry Louis Gates, Jr.. Gates was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct at his home after returning from a trip in 2009. After being unable to enter his own home, the police were called by a neighbor who saw Gates trying to enter the house and believed he was breaking in. Gates was questioned and there was an argument between the professor and the arresting officer that led to allegations of misconduct on both sides. The matter drew national media attention when Gates was taken to the police station in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Although the charges against him were later dropped, the matter gained media traction when it became known that Gates and the President were friends. While Obama made a statement to the press regarding the incident, Haney-López criticized him for not directly condemning the police for approaching members of minority groups with what he described in a subsequent article as "an aggressive disrespect and a quick resort to physical domination."