I was reading a CNN article titled "Is Australia becoming a more racist country?" The Race Discrimination Commissioner was quoted as saying:

"I take no pleasure in saying this, but, right now, it feels like there has never been a more exciting time to be a dog-whistling politician or race-baiting commentator in Australia," the outgoing commissioner told the audience." CNN article link

I think from the context I understand what he intends by "race baiting", that is, the provocative words or actions to encourage an atmosphere of racism or xenophobia.

However, I see a number of problems in the definitions I've found online. Merriam-Webster defines it as:

: the making of verbal attacks against members of a racial group

This definition doesn't match use in the article. This definition to me is simply mere racial vilification.

Wiktionary defines it as:

The use of racially derisive language, actions, or other forms of communication in order to anger or intimidate or coerce.
Wiktionary definition

This is the same meaning as the Merriam-Webster entry I gave above.

However on the other hand, I believe especially in America, people have another understanding of the term, and that is something like an unfounded accusation of racism to win an argument, sympathy, or to put an end to a discussion.

Conservapedia (Yes, I know it's crazy), defines it as:

Race baiting is a term for groundless accusations of racism made by liberals. It is a unique, deliberate and hypocritical focus on race in an attempt to discredit others as "racist".
Conservapedia article on race baiting

And feature this picture:

enter image description here

Urban Dictionary's definition matches the one given by Conservapedia:

Attempting to cloud logic and facts by appealing to emotion through false accusations of racial discrimination.
Urban Dictionary entry to race baiting

I found an article posted on a site called splinternews.com, titled:

If you're confused about what race-baiting is, here's a bit of context

It contains the assertion:

The right has co-opted the term “race baiting, but here’s context for its > proper usage:

In 1986 George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign released an advertisement attacking his opponent Michael Dukakis for supporting prison furloughs: The advertisement baits voters by preying on their fears of black men’s inherent criminality.”
Article link

This last usage is the same usage as used in my example of the original CNN article, that is, akin to dog-whistle politics to instil fear of a race.

It shows this video as a classic example:


So, is it safe to say that the term "race baiting" has at least three main meanings, and that most people using the term are unaware of this ambiguity?

  • Odd. That Conservapedia definition is never one I've seen used by anyone, including conservatives. Aug 7, 2018 at 22:19
  • Please include the research you’ve done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 7, 2018 at 22:28
  • Bait: to persecute or exasperate with unjust, malicious, or persistent attacks -- bait minority groups : to try to make angry with criticism or insults -- baiting a politician during a debate
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 7, 2018 at 22:30
  • 4
    @HotLicks Are you sure you're talking to me when you say "Please include the research you've done"? I've included five links, 5 quotations or definitions, and a picture. I spent quite a while posting this question from doing research. The problem I have is due to the disparate meanings given I'm still not sure exactly what it means or if it can be used with different meanings.
    – Zebrafish
    Aug 7, 2018 at 22:43
  • @HotLicks Can I suggest the term isn't clear as to any of its purported meanings by understanding singularly the words "race" and "bait". I've cited three different meanings, including some dictionary definitions and they don't concur with each other.
    – Zebrafish
    Aug 7, 2018 at 23:01

1 Answer 1


race baiting OED noun

The incitement or exploitation of racial hatred, prejudice, or tension, usually (esp. in later use) for political gain.

The OED gives one definition. I do not discern any other sense.

  • The publicly accessible link is here. Aug 7, 2018 at 23:26
  • So, to the OP's question of "So, is it safe to say that the term "race baiting" has at least three main meanings, and that most people using the term are unaware of this ambiguity?", I infer your answer to be "I only use one of those meanings and I can therefore confirm that I'm unaware of the ambiguity."
    – AndyT
    Aug 9, 2018 at 8:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.