Since most Americans find overt racism unpalatable, racists and “pragicists” (pragmatic exploiters of racism) must put on a public face that conceals their racism. However, they also want to recruit and advance their agenda, so they need a way to express their racism while also maintaining what they would like to be plausible deniability. The example I will focus on involves racism and migration.
If a politician said, “I will build a wall to protect the purity of the white race from becoming mongrelized by the brown rapists swarming across our border” they would probably not last very long in office. If a recruiter for the alt right said to “normies” that “the inferior non-white races are defiling our women and robbing us of both our blood and soil…let me also warn you of the covetous Jew…” they would not be very effective at turning normies into racists. But racists need a way to get the message out in public while also being able to deny that they are racists, should someone point out their racism. This is where such things as dog whistles, coded language and chocolate chipping (see my upcoming essay) come in. The basic idea is presenting racism in a way that does not seem racist.
When it comes to migration, open racism is generally not effective in the public arena. Fortunately for the racist, centuries of American racism against migrants have provided a set of tools to lure in non-racists and provide deniability. These tools are effective because they involve presenting concerns that can be rational and non-racist.
One stock approach is to speak of migrants as criminals who are coming here to commit crimes. It is certainly rational to be concerned about crime and being worried about crime does not make a person a racist. As such, casting migrants as criminals allows a racist to appeal to non-racists and if pressed they can say they are not racists—they are just worried about crime.
Another stock tactic is to associate migrants with disease—they are bringing diseases here that will infect us. As with crime, it is rational to be concerned about disease and this does not make a person a racist. This also allows racists to appeal to non-racists and gives them cover in the form of a professed concern about health.
A third tactic is to assert that migrants are causing economic harm by stealing American jobs and exploiting social services like schools, food stamps and welfare. It is sensible to be worried about economic harms and such worries do not make one a racist. Once again, this tactic provides a cloak for the racist—they can deny their racism and assert they are just looking out for American jobs and protecting the taxpayer.
Since it is rational to be concerned about crime, disease and economic harms, how can one discern a non-racist from a racist? While this method is not foolproof, the logical way is to use the facts.
While migrants do commit crimes, they commit crimes at a rate lower than native born Americans. While having more migrants does entail more crime, so does having more babies since more people results in more crime. As such, reducing migration to reduce crime makes as much since as reducing the number of babies in order to fight crime. That is, not much sense as a general policy. If one has doubts about migrants and crime, one can examine the police data to see the truth.
While migrants do get sick, they do not present a significant health risk when one considers that Americans are already infecting each other. It is, of course, rational to be concerned that war-torn countries and failing countries might be suffering from a decline in vaccination. But Americans are also falling behind in their vaccination rates, so this is not a threat unique to migrants from certain places. In any case, worries about vaccinations and disease are better addressed by health care solutions rather than broad migration policies. Examination of health data will show that migrants are not a health threat.
While it is true that illegal migrants can lower wages because businesses engage in illegal hiring practices and can exploit undocumented workers, illegal migrants are not stealing jobs. Rather, they are being given jobs illegally. Migrants that are here legally are also not stealing jobs, they are being hired.
The main reasons Americans lose jobs is not because migrants take them. Rather the causes tend to be technological change (such as automation), economic factors (such as natural gas being cheaper than coal), and decisions by business leaders (such as sending jobs overseas). As far as checking on whether migrants have stolen jobs, think about this—how many legally run American businesses have fired their American workers and replaced them with migrants here in America? Is there, for example, a big GM plant in Michigan being staffed entirely by Mexicans?
When a person who endorses harsh migration policies and professes that is because of concerns about crime, disease and economic harms, the method to test them is to present the facts of the matter. If the person is not a racist, they will be willing to reconsider their position. After all, if they favor harsh migration polices directed at brown people because they believe that they would meaningfully reduce crime and they learn that they will not, they should change their position. If the facts have no impact on their position, then that serves as evidence that they are a non-racist who rejects facts or a racist (or perhaps a pragicist).
It might be objected that someone could actively argue that migrants are disease carrying criminals who come here to steal jobs and exploit the social system and that they are not racists. While this is possible, they would need to prove their claims and thus overturn all existing evidence to the contrary. It is also worth noting that the notion that migrants are disease carrying criminals is a very old one. If your family is not pure WASP, it is rather likely the same was said about your family. So, which is more likely: that past and present migrants were or are disease carrying criminals coming here to steal jobs or that these assertions are just tired racism hidden under a badly worn and threadbare cloak of deceit?