Suzan Harjo: Privileged language permeates American politics

"The very privileged once marginalized people of color, anyone poor and most women by simply entering the boardroom, cigar den or private car. But as whiteness created its own cachet and more non-whites became cashy, the rich and snotty weren’t content to talk behind closed doors, they seemed to want the depth of their disdain known, and they wanted deniability. This begat the coded language of privilege that permeates our national, local and office politics today.

There is a decades-long political tradition of using welfare as code for the lazy and the fruitful who avoid work and make babies to game the system. When former governor Mitt Romney runs for president with a campaign ad claiming that President Barack Obama is trying to “gut” the 1996 Welfare Reform Act “by dropping work requirements,” he is signaling to his base that the African American president is letting African American people steal everyone else’s hard earned tax money. At the same time, Romney can deny any such race-based meaning or purpose—he is merely contesting welfare policy.

In his August 20 press conference, Obama rightly called Romney’s ad “patently false.” He would have been within his rights to chide him for raising the specter of the angry black man, as Romney did at an August 14 rally in Ohio: “This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like.… His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then try to cobble together 51 percent of the pieces.… Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago.… ”"

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Suzan Shown Harjo: The Coded Language Of Privilege (Indian Country Today 8/26)

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