Today’s Daily Kos The Brief, our weekly show about politics, features University of California-Berkeley law professor Ian Haney López, a bona fide real-world Critical Race Theorist. Not the fake ones that conservatives are hyperventilating wherever Black people might reside, like in school and public libraries. This essay lays out his theory of change quite effectively.
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This will be an interesting discussion, as Haney López has quite the compelling (or controversial, depending on your point of view) theory on how to reach white working class people that have abandoned the Democratic Party over racist dog whistles.
His academic work is certainly in that space, as he's written several books on the subject, such as Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class (2014), and his most recent Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America (2019).
But where Haney Lopez strays from most academics is that he tests his theories with actual survey data, and has worked with the AFL-CIO’s Advisory Council on Racial and Economic Justice, and co-founded the Race-Class Narrative Project, exploring how to defeat dog whistle politics. His race-class academy provides a free, self-guided course on Race-Class Fusion Politics that you and your allies can use to help build a multi-racial progressive supermajority.
That’s not to say his prescription has universal acclaim. His theory (which he supports with polling) is something we know already—that the accusation of racism is worse to these people than actual racism. He would message instead that race is being used to divide the 99% against the 1% (to simplify things), and find common ground around economic issues.
One Democratic faction believes with every fiber that white racism must be directly confronted, though this alienates white voters and loses elections. The other side insists that the best strategy is to mainly ignore racism — though this leaves unchallenged the Republicans’ main electoral strategy. Democrats are thus two Titanics, steaming in opposite directions. From their respective decks, each can see the iceberg in the other’s path, but not the jagged teeth beneath their own bows. For democracy itself, whatever hope there is depends on both these Titanics turning [...]
For the Race Left, there is a hard truth here: condemnations of white supremacy backfire, losing support from voters across racial lines and thereby making justice for communities of color less likely.
Objectively, Donald Trump gained support from Black and Latino voters in his reelection battle.
That’s not to say Haney Lopez is with the “colorblind left.” He’s a professor of Critical Race Theory after all. He’s not going to pretend racism doesn’t exist, or throw his fellow Latinos and other people of color to the side. So his solution?
Race-class fusion politics frames racial conflict as a divide-and-conquer strategy that threatens us all, people of every race and across the broad economic spectrum. The real enemy we all face, fusion politics says, is those who profit by intentionally stoking racial division. The Trumpist politicians fueling group hatred; the media personalities like Tucker Carlson harping on the “great replacement theory” lie that Democrats seek to displace white voters with ever more people of color; the dark money think tanks that promote attacks on affirmative action, welfare, and more recently critical race theory. These are the real enemies we face. And by naming them as such, Democrats can shift the basic us-them conflict in American politics. The core opposition in American life is not between white people and people of color, fusion politics says. It’s us all, against those who profit by promoting social strife.
This will be an interesting discussion, so join us either on YouTube, or listen to the podcast when it’s released Wednesday. And for even more on Haney Lopez’s research, check out this deep dive from Ian Reifowitz.