People of color know coded language when we hear it, and in 2018, while the codes have evolved, they are still used to incite fear, divide, and take from one group to support another group.
Growing up in the South, my parents, grandparents and extended family taught us early and often about coded language (I am so thankful for the lessons) used to denigrate Black people, and I am so thankful for it. Many of today’s people of color are walking around with the heads stuck in the sand singing Kum-ba-yah thinking all is well in the world, thinking racism is dead.
It’s not, and those who would have us believe it is are the ones developing the coded language and new meanings helping to muddy up the waters. Don’t get it twisted though.
Racism’s alive, well and thriving in America. We can’t seem to kill it, and it just won’t die. It lives on, spreading misinformation, sowing division and causing hate in our political systems.
I was struck recently while reading the book “How Fascism Works, The Politics of Us and Them” by Dr. Jason Stanley on how American politics. One reference in his book was so relevant to me regarding today’s politics and we Black folks must always be on the lookout for what I’ve coined as political “Webonics.”
“Webonics” is simply Ebonics (a standard coded language within the Black culture with negative connotations among Whites), for White people. Lots of White people use code too family.
Digging into the Ebonics label is for another day. They don’t want Blacks to speak slang and use code, but certain White people can. I’m not sure why every other ethnic group gets to maintain their slang languages and native tongues, but Black people must speak King’s English…but okay.
I digress. Back to the subject at hand…coded language.
In Dr. Stanley’s book, he referred to an interview with the infamous Lee Atwater, a Southern Republican Strategist from South Carolina and his discussion with political scientist Alexander Lamis on how Atwater’s deliberate use of coded language in politics had evolved into more socially acceptable, less overt racist dog whistles to get White and Black people to the polls to vote Republican.
Atwater was hired specifically to design disguised racist language with racist intent for classically trained White ears. Campaigns Atwater formerly worked for includes some of the worst of the worst in modern GOP political history to include the infamous Strom Thurmond (Who hated black people, but apparently loved young Black women), George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan. People bring Atwater to the table knew exactly what they were getting for their money.
Listen below to short snippet on how Lee Atwater described just how Republican politics works today:
If you’re White and reading this, please don’t skip this audio! Go back and listen to it a few times. Let it sink into your soul how evil some GOP politicians are when it comes to harming Blacks in America. Just being Black is a crime.
When Black people tell you allies something is a dog whistle, dammit please listen! We know what we are talking about. The coded language may have changed and is less overt, but the meanings are still the same and we know a White racist slang when we hear it. We know it motivates many GOP and Dems alike, no matter how liberal some of they think they are. White people are conditioned to listen for dog whistles, and the correspond as expected.
Race baiting is wrapped in the fabric of America. It’s American as apple pie and patriotism.
Just look at Lee Atwater’s piercing words in words in writing:
[It’s a matter of] how abstract you handle the race thing. In other words, you start out … Now y’all aren’t quoting me on this … you start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you, backfires. So, you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff.
And you’re getting so abstract now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites….
“We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.” …
The secrets of American fascism spelled out in what was supposed to be an off the record interview by Lee Atwater. It’s been the gift that keeps on giving. It’s knowledge and wisdom for Black folks. Look at the politics of “us”and them” really works.
Cutting shit out for a lot of White people gets their selfish, petty asses fired up (like we don’t work and pay taxes so their kids can live in the gated suburbs with the best schools they don’t want our Black asses to attend)! When White GOP political strategists conjure up their codes to secure votes, they know what to say to harm us, and help themselves.
White folks fall for it every time, at the expense of Blacks, even if it’s a lie. So When White folks today say Trump and the GOP are speaking their language, you better listen to every word their saying, because those words have a sentimental meaning to them, and those words are code about us Blacks.
Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise, because our unpolished American history says otherwise. History is the truth, and the truth doesn’t lie.
Believe. Every. Word. They. Say.
Every. Damned. Time.
Too many White people voting GOP are voting for a set of white washed principles, beliefs, ideologies, White privilege and power and good old reliable contrived racism. Those types of White folks and White political strategists simply say it to themselves overtly all the time now, it’s just coded to fuck with us to make us think we’re crazy. We’re not. We know exactly what we heard and we know exactly what they mean.
Black folks must stay up on our code so we can not only stay safe out here in these streets, but we also need to know how the shifting of resources allocated to states and communities will harm us, our children, our grandchildren, and future generations of Black young people and families coming behind us.
We gotta be proactive.
So Black family, please teach your children, grand children, nieces and nephews, etc., about racist codes as our lives and livelihoods are depending on it. Depending on you, stay woke. Black people need to know now more than ever about the evolution of code, what it means and how it harms our communities. I don’t care how educated you are, how many White people you have in your circles, if you live in an all White community, or if you date or are married to a “good” White person. Your snoozing means Blacks collectively losing.
You need to be on the look out for the not so good White folks with the bad words. The ones with words intended to hurt us.
Our Black lives are depending on us adapting to America’s never-ending gifts of physical, verbal and emotional threats of harm and violence. Threats that prevent of from breathing, eating, driving, playing, picnicking, swimming, going to school, going to college, shopping, voting, dining in public, or any other thing we should be able to do freely without worry in a democracy.
How Allies Can Help
Stop second guessing us! We know what your people mean when they say shit and switch the meaning. Remember, we had to create language to communicate with each other during slavery to keep slave holders from understanding what we were talking about.
First, listen to us when we tell you something is code and racist. Secondly, get your people! Call them out, stop allowing political parties to make all White people look bad. Finally, stay on top of racist coded language created by the GOP leaders, their well-paid strategists, and other racist groups like good parents must stay on top of new hip hop slang (and boy that’s a full-time job).
You won’t be around me speaking about derogatory things in my presence and I don’t know about it. My slang game is pretty tight!
So many words with ulterior motives are hidden in language today. Not knowing the meanings of such code does not get you off the hook! Your people are creating the bullshit. Get your heads out of the sand, listen to what the racists are saying and sound the alarm. While some people really may be ignorant, I’m going to say it’s not that many. You’ve heard such language in your lives just like we have, so when your White people start jumping time with code switch, call them out on it.
Have public discussions about it, and exclude Black people. Sometimes you have better discussions when we aren’t at the table. You can be honest with each other call each other out on shit we aren’t allowed to. Make blog posts about racist coded political language. It’s the only way to expose racism and beat it back into the evil pits from whence it came!
In closing, we all must understand words matter. Code matters too. Black people need to clearly understand that words matter and while people may not “typically” be saying overtly racist things like “nigger,” or “Monkey this up,” or “Sitting front row of a public hanging,” or “So cotton pickin important” to make their racist points and views clear to those who are invested in that bullshit, it doesn’t mean they haven’t created some new lingo to speak to their peeps.
Today racist, lyin ass (TRUMP) politicians say shit like “Making America Great Again,” and “Giving corporate tax cuts,” or they say “The caravan in Mexico has “everything” in it, MS-13 and Middle Eastern terrorist too, just take your cameras and guns and go look for yourself.” New codes, same racist meanings.
The group of Brown foreigners has foreign cooties that may get on White men, women and children, and god forbid anything happens to their precious, scary lives, right? Gotta have a villain to appease White folks in politics. This explains why it’s so difficult to get people of color elected to office.
Remember racist code is alive and well in America, and it’s working like a charm in our political system. It’s used in both parties (in different ways), but I would say the GOP has the worst history with it dating back to pre-civil rights.
Knowing racist code is half the battle, and since it’s not going away (after how many centuries now?), we may as well conclude it’s here to stay. In the same manner that we keep up with the latest slang (Ebonics) from Jay-Z and Bey, Drake, Migos, and Lil Wayne, we must also stay on top of our Webonics. They must be called out and held accountable for their racism and their attempts to flip meanings of words to cover their racist agendas.
Staying on top of Webonics will save lots of disappointment, enable us to mobilize quickly when it’s time to vote Black interests and issues, and likely save lots of Black lives.
The language of racists has indeed changed, but the coded racist meanings of their languages are still the same.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, it’s shame on me. Stay woke family.
We gotta make it through 2022. Stay safe out here in these streets!
Marley K., 2018