I learned at the Small Town Summit earlier this month about “dog whistle politics.” Since this was new terminology to me, I was glad to get a definition. I know a dog whistle can be heard by dogs, but not by humans. Dog whistle politics is a coded language defended as benign but is intended to provoke strong emotional responses from a targeted audience. A call to clean up Riverton is dog whistle politics. Picking up trash and city beautification are good. But when it extends to treating unhoused people with brown skin as if they are disposable trash, then it is wrong. Recently, a group of Riverton business owners met “who are angry and done with the crime, violence, shoplifting, drugs, alcohol, etc., on the streets of Riverton,” according to a post on Facebook. The post noted that “Natives were targeted at this meeting.” In response, a meeting is scheduled with city officials for Tuesday that is open to the public. From the right wing are responses about the need to carry guns and threats of violence. From the Native community are responses of fear. But what will be the responses of white moderates? Will they stay silent to let dog whistle politics win? An RPM supporter shared that he was the only one to respond to racist comments made about an article in the Casper Star Tribune about Murdered and Missing Indigenous People. Why did others not respond? We must speak up, or the dog whistlers win. But how to respond is the question. The right-wing links racial fears, economic resentment, and distrust of government. A winning response requires naming shared values that includes race, which I wrote about in last week’s column; names those using racism as a weapon; emphasizes unity and collective action to solve problems (like RPM is doing concerning the safety and well-being of our unhoused neighbors); and seeks to achieve the vision jointly. Call to action! Do at least one act this week in response to dog whistle politics that you see. If you live in or near Riverton, show up to counter dog whistles at Riverton City Hall, Tuesday, June 27, 6 pm.
Contribute to RPM, to help keep up our momentum advocating for our unhoused neighbors and countering dog whistle politics!
Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice. Chesie Lee