When Code Words Aren’t Coded

Social Theory and Practice 46 (4):813-845 (2020)
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According to the “standard framing” of racial appeals in political speech, politicians generally rely on coded language to communicate racial messages. Yet recent years have demonstrated that politicians often express quite explicit forms of racism in mainstream political discourse. The standard framing can explain neither why these appeals work politically nor how they work semantically. This paper moves beyond the standard framing, focusing on the politics and semantics of one type of explicit appeal, candid racial communication. The linguistic vehicles of CRC are neither true code words, nor slurs, but a conventionally defined class of “racialized terms.”

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Patrick O'Donnell
Oakton Community College


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