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Student Question

Based on Chapters 5-9 of Ian Haney López's Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class: In Chapter 8, what does the author say about common sense racism and cognitive response?

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In his book Racism on Trial: The Chicano Fight for Justice, Haney Lopez defines common sense racism as "action arising out of racial common sense that furthers social hierarchy" (page 128). Common sense racism does not necessarily have the intention of doing harm, as overt racism does, but it still results in helping keep whites on top of the social hierarchy.

In his book Dog Whistle Politics, Haney Lopez writes that whites have some seemingly rational reasons to engage in common sense racism, but their belief is largely guided by "the delusion that that racial superiority will restore a mythical middle-class wonderland" (page 173). In other words, white working-class voters believe that their common sense racism will help restore their lost incomes and lost economic status. However, the reasons that whites support common sense racism runs deeper than that. As Lopez Haney writes, white working-class voters engage in commonsense racism, even if it overtly goes against their economic interests, because "what's economic and what's social cannot be neatly separated" (page 172). As the author explains, whites blame nonwhites for the economic hardships they have faced, and they use non-whites as a scapegoat for the larger economic forces that have caused recessions, job losses, declining opportunities, and shrinking savings. Common sense racism allows working-class whites to hold onto the myth that they will regain economic ground, and working class whites' cognitive response to the economic situation is not always rational.

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