Dr. Laura Schlessinger has announced that she will not be returning to her syndicated self help radio talk show. Her exit was precipitated by an ill-conceived attempt to spin the repeated use of the “n-word” to make what in her mind was a “philosophical point” on hypersensitivity about race.
“”Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO and listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n****r, n****r, n****r. 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.” When the caller was offended, Dr. Laura went on to state:
“Oh, then I guess you don’t watch HBO or listen to any black comedians. My dear, the point I am trying to make … [is that] we’ve got a black man as president and we’ve got more complaining about racism than ever. I think that’s hilarious.”
You can listen to the actual rant here.
This controversy illustrates how dangerous it is to attempt to spin racial epithets in a public forum. Some words, especially the n-word, are so historically soaked in negativity and hate that just the word itself in any context draws on the worst feelings and perceptions in people. There is no spin to be had. There is no upside. Even if we give her some benefit of the doubt and say that there was a point to be made, there is no question that she used the word in a very aggressive and angry tone that left it open to every negative interpretation that the mind can envision(as if the word does not do that all on its own).
Dr. Laura compounded her mistake by engaging in racial stereotyping in using an out of context example that African-Americans throw the n-word around among each other indiscriminately. I do not know if she is right or not but it is extremely hostile territory to venture when you are not part of that class of people and making a generalization based on intermittent observations of the class. The final nail in her racial meltdown was to sarcastically suggest that people sensitive about the N-word should not marry out of their race. This was the most indefensible statement in her rant, not open to any legitimate interpretation.
Why did she go there? I do not believe she is a racist. She is no Mel Gibson. If anything, her mistake was arrogance of perceived stature. The belief that you are so above the fray that you can make a point in any manner you see fit. A Bill O’Reilly like belief that anything you say can be force fed to mainstream acceptance regardless of the negativity.
Dr. Laura is now attempting to portray herself as a victim of political correctness. She claims she is leaving her show so she can “re-claim” her 1st Amendment rights. While the 1st Amendment does not apply to her situation, she is right about one thing. She can go to her blog and use the n-word as much as she wants to make whatever point she wants. No one is going to fire her. No worry about advertisers. I am sure that was her long term plan all along….(sarcasm)