From the Granville County Branch of the NAACP

According to Safire’s Political Dictionary, the Washington Post may have first used the term “dog whistle” in an article about political polling in 1988. Racial dog whistles are often sneakily used when politicians want to speak about race specifically to their target audience. The coded messages are used to reinforce racist ideas that the country’s societal and economic problems are because of undeserving, lazy and violent people of color.

Some employed racial dog whistles that negatively impact our communities include:

1. “Law and Order” and “Tough on Crime” ( On the surface, the phrase seems pretty non-threatening. However, it is often used to police low-income communities, particularly Black and Latinx people. Politicians use the phrase to signal that people of color are inherently criminal, and that they defy laws for no good reason.

2. “Tough on Crime” — Politicians who use this promise that they will enact policies that make the United States safer to live in. In theory, this should work for everyone — who wants to live somewhere that lets bad criminals go This dog whistle is primarily used as a code for “tough on Black and Latinx people, who are dangerous! It feeds a promise of harsh punitive measures for “non-violent” crimes, which have historically not only put people of color in jails, but in many cases, have caused their murders at the hands of the police.

3. “Traditional” — This term sends a message to describe a person who believes that the old ways are best ( The message is that anyone who does not look like the majority and attempts to intervene in the existing position or system is disruptive.

These racially motivated phrases resonate with conservatives and liberals alike. Because of this rhetoric, our community and country are held hostage by systemic injustices that affect generations. We are better than this and we must stand together to combat overt and covert racism.

In recent political ads from local campaigns, these terms have been used. The NAACP’s mission is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of ALL persons. As such, we wanted those who have chosen to use racially charged “dog whistles” to know, we hear them too. We hear them loud and clear and you will hear our response at the polls.