Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dr. Laura and the N-Word Rant

I've been mulling over Dr. Laura Schlessinger's on air n-word meltdown for the past two weeks. My friend, writer Mark Olmsted, calls Dr. Laura's n-word rant a "positively orgasmic repetition of the word."

Dr. Laura's agitation with the black woman who called her show to ask for advice on handling racially insensitive comments from her white husband's white friends was very clear. She immediately suggested that the caller was overly sensitive to questions from her white husband's white friends asking her to explain all things black. Feeling that perhaps Dr. Laura didn't fully understand her concerns, the caller offered what she considered to be an egregious example of offensive comment.

CALLER: How about the N-word? So, the N-word's been thrown around --
SCHLESSINGER: Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is nigger, nigger, nigger.
CALLER: That isn't --
SCHLESSINGER: I don't get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it's a horrible thing; but when black people say it, it's affectionate. It's very confusing. Don't hang up, I want to talk to you some more. Don't go away. (Follow this link to read the entire transcript or to listen to the audio.)

Jeez Dr. Laura, what's so confusing about this? The n-word was used as the most degrading insult that a white person could use in speaking to or of a black person for more than 300 hundred years. It was not ever used with affection by white people. I won't belabor this point. Thoughtful people already get it and trying to reach the lame-brained Dr. Laura and her clones is about as rewarding as trying to teach a pig to salsa. 

What I don't understand is under what circumstances does Dr. Laura or any white person want to use the n-word? Is it a desire to be able to greet black people with a joyous, hello n-word? Or to demonstrate one's street cred by dropping the word in casual conversation? If you are white and feel that your freedom of expression is severely impacted by being unable to freely use the n-word, then I have a suggestion.  Develop a close, affectionate relationship with a black person, and then ask your new BFF if it's okay to call him or her the n-word.

Clearly, Dr. Laura isn't alone in her resentment that there is a double standard when it comes to the use of the n-word. Comments abound from Internet users lamenting, "Why is it okay for black people to use the n-word but white people can't?" By the way, it appears to only be white people (not all, just some) who are feeling deprived. I've never heard any Latino, Asian, or Indian people who are woebegone because they have been denied the use of the n-word.

In spite of Dr. Laura's repeated use of the n-word (11 times in under seven minutes), I find her use of the word to be the least offensive part of her comments. Her assertion that the only reason that black people voted for Obama was because he was half-black says far more about her racist assumptions than her fascination with the n-word.

SCHLESSINGER: No, no, no. I think that's -- well, listen, without giving much thought, a lot of blacks voted for Obama simply 'cause he was half-black. Didn't matter what he was gonna do in office, it was a black thing. You gotta know that. That's not a surprise.

What absolute arrogance to assume that her vast "black" experience has qualified Dr. Laura to identify any set of behaviors as a "black thing." She also tells the caller that it's the caller's problem that she doesn't have a sense of humor.

CALLER: I know what the N-word means and I know it came from a white person. And I know the white person made it bad.
SCHLESSINGER: All right. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Can't have this argument. You know what? If you're that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry out of your race.

Perhaps I'm just humorless, but it has never crossed my mind to laugh at being called the n-word by a white person.

Dr. Laura appears particularly obsessed with the use of the n-word by black comedians on HBO; she mentions it more than once in her discussion with the caller. She takes particular offense at the notion of the n-word being restricted to use by only black people.

CALLER: Is it OK to say that word? Is it ever OK to say that word
SCHLESSINGER: It's -- it depends how it's said. Black guys talking to each other seem to think it's OK.
CALLER: But you're not black. They're not black. My husband is white.
SCHLESSINGER: Oh, I see. So, a word is restricted to race. Got it. Can't do much about that.

The doctor is correct; there is a double standard. The n-word is loaded with history and all sorts of emotional baggage. White people don't get to say it to black people. That's what this is really about. If white people want to call each other by the n-word, I really don't care and I've never heard any other black person lamenting that white people are calling each other by the n-word. The prohibition isn't against using the n-word; it's against white people calling black people niggers. You can't say it because we won't tolerate it any more. What black people say to each other has nothing to do with it. I laugh at jokes in which black comics say the n-word because it's a shared joke, an insider thing. We don't have any problem with white audiences laughing at the use of the n-word by black comedians, but white people do not get to address us under any circumstances by that word, so get over it and move on to things of substance.

By the way, comedian Jeff Foxworthy self-identifies as a redneck and he's darn funny doing it. When is the last time you've heard black people getting all bent out of shape because we want to call white folks rednecks?


Sarcastic Bastard said...

First of all, Dr. Laura is a damn idiot.

Secondly, you are correct--white people have no damn business using that word EVER. If a white person addressed one of my black friends with that word, someone would have to hold my indignant white ass back. The offender would get a swift beatdown.

Sending love,


Nance said...

Dr. L has been an embarrassment to my profession for most of her on-air career. She's probably done more to warn people away from counseling and psychotherapy than all the jokes about it ever told on Comedy Central or HBO. She utterly warped and perverted the clinician's role.

Now, she's an embarrassment to America. Great, another one; just what we needed. She's a stupid, stupid...well, I almost used the b-word, but, as a feminist, I try to avoid it.

Excellent post, Sheria.

Octopus said...

Dr. LS is no mental health professional of any kind, and her treatment of the caller was downright ABUSIVE. I am not merely referring to her repetition of the ‘N’ word but to the way she refused to validate the concerns of the caller. Trained psychologists do not respond that way. If a caller or client is experiencing real distress, it is abusive to deny a deeply felt emotion and challenge the reality of that person. First and foremost, psychotherapy is SUPPORT therapy. One acknowledges conflicts and concerns and suggests coping strategies. LS belongs to the same club of under-educated, under-trained, over-opinionated charlatans as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and other college dropouts.

About the use of the ‘N’ word by comedians and rappers, if the purpose were merely to defuse and neutralize it, I would have nothing to say. However, verbal abuse does not stop with the use of the ‘N’ word. Rappers also use the ‘B’ word and the ‘C’ word which are decidedly offensive and insulting to sisters, who have spoken loudly against the use of these pejoratives. All these words, in my opinion, are examples of a schlock and shock culture run amuck for only one purpose: Pushing standards of taste and decorum further into the wilderness gets attention ... which translates into money!

So LS is a former physiologist who studied diabetes in rats. Let me guess. If she discovered a cure for diabetes in rats, then the next logical step is to turn human beings into rats, of which LS is a pioneering exemplar.

Mark said...

I wrote a whole post about this--as you cited, thank you, so I won't repeat my points.
I do think many white people are jealous of how black people use language to convey emphasis and intimacy. When a white person with an icicle up her ass like Dr. Laura hears one black guy refer to another as "my ni**a," its not the word itself she wants, but the emotional exchange she is witnessing. She has no idea what its like to have bonded in the face of oppression, to have gotten high together and giggled till you've fallen off the chair, to tell someone "I love you" by calling them a "mothafucka!" Dr. Laura's rant was all about her own sense of inadequacy in the face of people she is convinced she should feel superior to. She sees a Chris Rock or a Wanda Sykes, and the richness and texture of their expression reminds her of her caged humorless mind, always coloring inside the lines with her white crayon. She can't possibly articulate it--she's not even aware of it. But that's what her hostility is all about. She's never had a homie.

Btw, I love when black people call white trash "cracka!" But isn't it interesting how straight people never call each other breeder?

Montana said...

I am so happy that the ugly (inside and out) crazy old gym teacher reaped what she had sowed. She could have gotten her argument across by saying “N word” and not using the word and by not saying “don’t NAACP me” and “Don’t marry out of your race ” but like Michael Richards AKA “Cosmo Kramer”, she ends up the trash heap of history, a history of her own making. I am so happy that the free market AKA sponsors started to pull their ads (I guess they were exercising their free speech) and she finally realized that she was just another “run of the mill gabby” and her days were numbered. She realized that she was not as smart as she thought she was, finally! We are all adults here and we all know that we cannot control how others will respond to our comments, but it nothing to do about First Amendment rights (how exactly did the government stop her? They didn’t) and street talk and more about being held responsible for our actions and words. The first three times she used the word might not have been in anger but the last eight she was filled with hate, so good riddance.

Palin was the one who got bent over the use of the word “Retard” (she wanted someone fired for using it once), Palin also said that the people have the right to build the Mosque in NY, but out of respect for the 9/11 families they shouldn’t, but I guess this same standard is not applicable to Laura Schlessinger. Do you see the hypocrisy? The problem with Palin is the same when she mistakenly referred to Ronald Reagan Eureka College, being in California and we all know its in Illinois, same thing, she does not fact check anything she is going to say. She is soooo Palin!

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

She should not wait until the end of the year, she should be gone now. No explanation is sufficient.

jack-of-all-thumbs said...

I have never heard/read any of Dr. Laura's gems of wisdom and so I won't comment on her. But, as always, I had another 'ah ha!' moment on reading your analysis. Rare that I begin a Saturday morning by becoming enlightened. Many thanks.

Yasmin said...

I don't know who Dr Laura is because I'd be goose stepping up behind to try and beat some sense into her head but she would connect the word goose stepping with some kind of Nazi reference she strikes be as that type and I've found through life never to underestimate peoples ability to say and do foolish things.

She isn't getting it and seems to me like she's using it as a way to censor black people in the kind of if you can say why can't I but by attemping to put some intellectual spin on it, it's never ok to use that word to another, even when Chris Rock (one of my faves) visted the UK last year he was not allowed to use the N-word and quite right because black people here don't use that as part of their vernacular with each other.

That being said I do understand the spirit in which is meant within the black community(I still don't like it though)as it's not to them a message of hate, which entirely the point that DR Laura is missing.

I also find it silly that since you now have a Black President all of a sudden all things that pertain to black people have suddenly become such a wide issue like lets forget what we have done for the last three hundred years and lets put it on the table to discuss but we'll penalise black people for what we have been doing all along, really they need to get a grip failing that keep their big mouths shut.

Take care


Beth said...

Her argument is ridiculous. What I found funny is that she is stepping down from her show because her First Amendment rights are being taken from her. Hahaha! Crackuh, please!