Michael Eric Dyson: 'Making America Great Again' Is 'Code' for 'White Nationalism'

Appearing as a guest on Wednesday's All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC, Georgetown University professor and former MSNBC political analyst Michael Eric Dyson was the latest liberal to claim that a general slogan like "Make America Great Again" really has a racist "code" of "white nationalism" as he claimed that even a generic reference to the "nation" of America implies "whiteness" "by default."

After fellow guest and author Alexander Zaitchik recalled that he has spent several months immersed with Donald Trump supporters and believes that their support of the GOP presidential candidate is based on economics and not race, Dyson responded by theorizing that race is a factor subconsciously. Dyson began:

It relates to the point that was just made by brother Zaitchik in regard to, it's not a conscious choice of many white brothers and sisters. If you polled them and asked them, they would deny it. But isn't that the lure of whiteness? Whiteness has been rendered invisible.

The race-obsessed former MSNBC analyst added:

It has been the default position of American identity so that whiteness and nation are seen to be indissolubly linked. And, as a result of that, you don't have to talk about whiteness. All you have to do is talk about making America great again. Black people hear those code words, and they understand what they mean.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Wednesday, August 24, All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC:

CHRIS HAYES: Alex, you spent months essentially as, if I understand the project, just spending time with Trump supporters. Right?

ALEXANDER ZAITCHIK, AUTHOR OF GILDED RAGE: That was it, yeah.

HAYES: So how do you think these speeches, this language is sort of like, "What do you have to lose?" How is that -- how are they hearing it? How do you think that's resonating with them?

ZAITCHIK: I don't think it's necessarily adding any Trump voters. I don't think there were a whole lot of people on the fence or within a mile of a fence waiting for this speech. But whether he's losing people he already had, I would probably say it's not going to hurt him that much. I mean, I don't think these are people who are necessarily as consumed with race and immigration as some people.

HAYES: Really? You think so?

ZAITCHIK: Yeah. I mean, obviously, you can't stereotype. There are too many people, and I don't want to replace one stereotype with another. If I did have to come down on one side of the question of whether it's racial or economic anxiety as a sort of primary driver of Trump's support, I would have to come down on the economic side.

HAYES: That's interesting. There's this question, Michael, also about whether, you know, how much of this is performance for essentially affluent or suburban white voters, particularly white women, in places like the Georgia suburbs or in Northern Virginia or in the areas that are essentially the Boston suburbs in New Hampshire where's he's getting destroyed, and how much this is about essentially trying to -- I think DeMille Smith said this well yesterday -- that voting for Trump in and of itself is not a racist act because people do not want to commit that.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, FORMER MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And it relates to the point that was just made by brother Zaitchik in regard to, it's not a conscious choice of many white brothers and sisters. If you polled them and asked them, they would deny it. But isn't that the lure of whiteness? Whiteness has been rendered invisible. It has been the default position of American identity so that whiteness and nation are seen to be indissolubly linked. And, as a result of that, you don't have to talk about whiteness. All you have to do is talk about making America great again. Black people hear those code words, and they understand what they mean.

And, yes, to your point within African-American culture understanding just what's going on here, understanding the play that Donald Trump is making now. And let's be real. Many African-American people see this as, "Okay, Kellyanne Conway comes in and says, 'Look, you're leaving on the table a lot of potential black people who might resonate with you, the only problem is they can't resonate with a guy who doesn't understand,'" again, if he's not ideological and if he's only nationalist as has been indicated, again, that doesn't mean he's contradicting the principles of white nationalism.

That means he's reinforcing them without being held to account. And I think Donald Trump is a massively effective manipulator, and, at the end of the day, there may be no there there, but what's there at the end of the day is the status quo, and that status quo has not favored African-American people.

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