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#BackChannel: 'Dog Whistle Politics,' 'Confirmation' And Remembering Phife Dawg

For decades, politicians have used coded language to talk about race without addressing it explicitly. Terms like "welfare queen," "illegal aliens" and "thug" are used to elicit responses from target audiences without directly addressing race. 

The practice is known as "dog whistle politics." Also, the new HBO film "Confirmation," features the Senate confirmation hearings involving Judge Clarence Thomas's nomination to the Supreme Court and accusations of sexual harassment by former employee Anita Hill. The film's portrayal raises questions about the role of race in the judiciary process. 

Host Frank Stasio talks with pop culture experts Natalie Bullock Brown, professor of film and broadcast media at St. Augustine's University, and Mark Anthony Neal, professor of African & African American studies at Duke University.

They look at "Confirmation" and remember the legacy of Malik Taylor a.ka. Phife Dawg of the hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest.  They also talk with Ian Haney-Lopez, law professor at the University of California and author of 

"Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked The Middle Class." (University of Oxford Press/2014).

Watch the trailer for the HBO film "Confirmation" below:

Watch Phife Dawg in his last radio freestyle in March:

Charlie Shelton-Ormond is a podcast producer for WUNC.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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