Dog Whistles In My Hometown
Dog Whistle: a coded message communicated through words or phrases commonly understood by a particular group of people, but not by others.
Every year, I like to pay attention to lawn signs. My local elections don’t get a lot of press coverage. It’s not like anyone’s polling Newington and handicapping the races. So, as I go around town, I look for the signs to give myself some sort of sense for who might win. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing.
This year, using my unscientific method, it appears to be a close race for state representative. It shouldn’t be close. The incumbent, Democrat Gary Turco is doing a good job. He’s smart, he listens, he’s responsive, and he actually cares about our town and its people. He deserves another term.
But, I’m downright disturbed by his opponent, Michael Camillo. Camillo seems to be running on a platform of Blue Lives Matter, which, as we all should know, is racist. His campaign signs have a quote on them, “If we expect our officers to stand in front of us, we need to stand behind them.” There’s a lot wrong with that statement, but it is clearly saying that he supports the police. With no other context given, we have to assume that he supports the police against the Black Lives Matter movement as they are the most prominent, if not only, group fighting for police accountability at the moment. Combine that with the blue stripe (the same color blue as the Blue Lives Matter flags) behind his name on the signs and the fact that his signs are frequently paired with signs that say, “We support the Newington police” (which also have the blue stripe), and it’s pretty clear he’s running on racism.
Of course, he would probably deny any accusations of racism, but that’s the thing about dog whistles, plausible deniability. He can say that he’s not even talking about race, he just really likes the police. We have to call him out on it. Imagine if, when the Catholic Church’s child sex abuse scandal broke, a politician had put up signs saying, “I support the priests.” People would have been appalled. It would have been like putting up signs saying he was anti-children or pro-abuse. This is the same. The only reason we’re talking about the police at all in 2020 is because they keep murdering Black people. Making a big show of your support for the police right now is the same as showing your racism. Blue Lives Matter is so obviously racist that it’s barely even a dog whistle anymore. It’s a small step away from a noose and a white hood.
For as long as I’ve lived here, Newington has been more conservative than I am. But, up until now, it has always been the anti-tax conservatives rather than the racist conservatives. I’m truly shaken that, in 2020, my town has a significant population responding positively to racist dog whistles. We should be better than this.