Racial Politics Project

The Othering & Belonging Institute's Racial Politics project, directed by Berkeley Law professor Ian Haney López, focuses on how coded racism pervades electoral politics and is widely used to incite popular hostility toward liberal governance. It also researches and tests messages capable of defeating dog whistle politics and building enthusiasm for a multi-racial, class-conscious progressive movement.

The project is built in part from Haney López's book Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class (2014), which examines how politicians have used racial pandering to garner votes and pass policies that favor the most wealthy. It also contributed to and draws on the Race-Class Narrative Project, undertaken in collaboration with Anat Shenker-Osorio, Heather McGhee, Celinda Lake, Cornell Belcher, and others. The Race-Class Narrative Project conducted interviews and ran a series of focus groups and polls in 2017 and 2018. The goal was to craft messages capable of beating the Right’s dog whistle racial fear narrative.

The Racial Politics Project also draws on Haney López’s most recent book, Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America (2019). That book explains how the political exploitation of coded racism has evolved under Trump—and draws on the Race-Class Narrative Project to outline an evidence-based approach on how to beat it. The main takeaway is that naming racism as a weapon of the rich and calling for coming together across racial lines is the most effective way to defang the Right’s racial fear narratives and to build broad cross-racial support for racial justice as well as for economic populism.

A key programmatic focus will be to develop and release educational tools that provide teachers, students, and audiences outside of academia with strategies and resources for piercing racial rhetoric, as well as promoting an analysis of the various ways racism is used in American politics to divide and control. One project will be to develop a video series that will focus on connecting racial justice with economic and other forms of justice, such as gender equality and immigrant rights.

Haney López holds an endowed chair as the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Public Law at the University of California, Berkeley, where he teaches in the areas of race and constitutional law.



Ian Haney López, “How to Beat Trump at His Own Game,” New York Times, October 15, 2019

Ian Haney López, “Why the youth climate strike has to take on racial justice,” Los Angeles Times, September 19, 2019

Ian Haney López, “Why do Trump’s supporters deny the racism that seems so evident to Democrats?Los Angeles Times, August 13, 2019

Ian Haney López, Anat Shenker-Osorio & Tamara Draut, “Democrats can win by tackling race and class together,” The Guardian, April 14, 2018

Ian Haney López & Robert Reich, "The Way Forward for Democrats Is to Address Both Class and Race," The Nation, Dec. 12, 2016



Introducing Merge Left
October 6, 2019

“Merge Left: Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America” with Ian Haney López
Othering & Belonging, 400 Years of Resistance to Slavery and Injustice
October 11, 2019

Donald Trump’s racism isn’t just racism–it’s a strategy
Demos, Move-On, Inequality Media
June 6, 2016

Dog Whistle Politics Explained in Under 4 Minutes
Demos, Move-On
March 12, 2016

Dog Whistle Politics of Race Part 1
Moyers and Company
February 28/ March 7, 2014

Dog Whistle Politics of Race Part 2
Moyers and Company
February 28/ March 7, 2014