Francesca Maximé – ReRooted – Ep. 42 – Dog Whistle Racism with Ian Haney López

Ian Haney López joins Francesca to discuss how dog whistle politics and media perpetuate the socially constructed, hierarchical story of racial identity.

Ian Haney López joins Francesca to discuss how dog whistle politics and media perpetuate the socially constructed, hierarchical story of racial identity.

Ian Haney López is a law professor who specializes in race and racism. The Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Public Law at the UC, Berkeley, Ian’s focus has been on the use of racism in electoral politics. From writing, to public polling and message testing, to accessible videos, Ian develops and promotes a race-class praxis. His books White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race and Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class showcase how powerful elites exploit social divisions, imploring that no matter our race, color, or ethnicity, our best future requires building cross-racial solidarity. Discover more at

Race is Not Destiny

Prompted by Francesca, Ian shares about his upbringing in Hawaii, being raised by a mixed race couple. Growing up with this unique vantage point from the cultural melting pot of the Island, sparked an inquiry into race relations inside of Ian, a query that would deepen as he traveled to college in St. Louis, Missouri, one of the most starkly segregated areas in the States. Sharing stories of realizing both the overt and implicit racism in society, Francesca and Ian elucidate race as a social construct, rather than a fixed trait.

“Race isn’t something that’s fixed in us. Race is a social practice. It’s a set of understandings. It’s something that circulates in the culture, but it’s something that is interpreted and imposed by different actors, at different times, in different ways.” – Ian Haney López

Imbibe the dignity of unraveling racism by steeping yourself in the contemporary American Saints of the Freedom Movement, on Ep. 20 of Sufi Heart
The Powerful Story of Race (8:12)

Diving into themes within Ian’s book, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race, Francesca and Ian explore how race was created as a social construct, and is being upheld by our prevailing systems. Highlighting that race is not real as a biology, but is undeniably real as a set of social practices, they elucidate the complex nuances of social hierarchy, showcasing how race was created as a story so we could swallow the harsh truths of slavery, exploitation, and genocide.

“Race was always an attempt as a set of ideasas an ideologyto displace responsibility from what we ourselves were doing. Race was a story to explain why genocide and dispossession of Native Americans was inevitable and natural, and that we weren’t responsible for it…” – Ian Haney López

For a Dharma talk from one of Francesca’s teachers, illuminating the ‘storied’ history of racism in the United States, tune into Ep. 112 of Heart Wisdom
Dog Whistle Politics, Dog Whistle Media (22:02)

Using the example of the Obama administration’s issues of further bolstering racially biased mass incarceration and deportation targeting Latinos, Francesca and Ian examine how politics has became a way in which racism is being expressed and mobilized within our society. This epiphany led Ian to look back through history and uncover the coded language of racism used by politicians to uphold the story of the hierarchal social power structure of racism – a veiled technique still used today by both major parties.

“It’s not white racism in general. It’s Donald Trump, it’s Richard Nixon, it’s Ronald Reagan, it’s Bill and Hillary Clinton in their time telling stories about threatening people of color and then encouraging police departments to treat Brown and Black People as fundamentally lawless and violent.” – Ian Haney López

Explore the connection between the concept of racial identity, and our systems of finance and politics, on Ep. 31 of ReRooted


Images via Ian Haney Lopez and