First, let me say this. As a nation we need to have a conversation about the word "nigger." We need to look at the historical use of the word, how it has been used to oppress black folk, and how its continued use today (yes, by many in the black community) continues to oppress today. This conversation is necessary to the continued struggle to overcome the legacy of racism in our nation. The fact that Dr Laura complained about this double standard even using the word "nigger" as a mere word referencing the word itself should not in itself be enough to condemn her.
Now, what Dr Laura did was complain about this double standard in a rather inflammatory way.
Here's a piece of the transcript redacted by Huffington Post:
"Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO and listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n****, n*****, n*****. 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."
Later, we have an excerpt with a caller:
DR. LAURA: Oh, I see, so a word is restricted to race. Got it. Can't do much about that. CALLER: I can't believe someone like you is on the radio spewing out the n***** word, and I hope everybody heard it. DR. LAURA: I didn't spew out the n***** word! CALLER: You said "n*****, n*****, n*****" and I hope everybody heard it. DR. LAURA: Yes they did, and I'll say it again: n*****, n*****, n***** is what you hear on HBO. [Crosstalk]
She also said: "If you're that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry outside of your race."
In saying these things, she violated several important taboos regarding race. The first is for a white person to say "nigger." These caused much offence and this is what the discussion to date has been about. I am writing however, on the substantive reasons to be concerned by what she said regardless of choice of words, however, and also the need for us as a society to stop and talk about the issues which underlie this controversy.
The word "nigger" entered into English from Anglicized Spanish and Portuguese. The word through its history in English has been closely tied to racial oppression and indeed when I think of the word, the first thing that comes to my mind is the phrase "uppity nigger." The word has been used effectively to define the social place of black folk within our nation's society, first as slaves, then under Jim Crow and on through to today. It's a word which has deeply ingrained in its meaning the prospects of glass ceilings and the threats of harassment and violence that come from getting too uppity and crossing the wrong social lines.
I don't think you can entirely separate in-group uses from out-group uses of the word semantically, nor do I think anyone really thinks this is the case. The social context changes in these cases, but the meaning and baggage of the word does not change as much. My own thinking is that on some level the word, when used by blacks, becomes an internal group definition and warning not to step outside those limits. It carries, in my view, the same baggage of the past, but the only thing that's different is whether those limits are self-imposed or whether they are externally imposed. Thus, in my view, the word as typically used in the black community today carries on the legacy of racism just in a new form. I could be wrong but without an open interracial discussion, it's very, very difficult to be sure.
Against this background, one can see a reaction to what Dr Laura said as containing traces of a sentiment which might be paraphrased like, "How dare you discriminate against us white folk? We want an equal opportunity to be your oppressors!" That's bad. Simply replacing "nigger" with "n-word" doesn't make it substantively any better aside from putting a little distance around the issue.
The second thing I find very troubling here is her criticism of the caller's interracial marriage without getting any details. This comes across as criticizing interracial marriage generally but without supplying any real reasoning behind the criticism.
it's easy to throw around charges of racism, and harder to recognize that everyone carries within themselves some of our racist legacy, and that this is true regardless of race or ancestry. If we are to try to continue a march towards overcoming this legacy as a nation, I think we can no longer afford to hide from this reality. Some of the raw nerves touched by Dr Laura reflect that urge to hide, but this does not make the substantive elements of what she said any more excusable.
Dr. Laura who like Dr. Phil is not really a doctor but because she is on the air giving "advice" and because she has that "doctor" title, believes that what she says is always ok. After an apology that at first seemed sincere, she announced that she will be quitting her radio program so she will be free to say whatever she wants. This makes me feel that her apology was written for her by a PR person attempting damage control. She said … more
I do not listen to her or other talk radio shows. In the car it is classical or Teaching Co. cd's, (an example I recommend to all on Lunch.com). I just think that all of these talking heads regardless of whether they are on the right or left act like "shock jocks" to boost ratings. I majored in Pol. Sci. as an undergrad and history and philosophy in graduate school and am presently an adjunct professor in Asian history, and I am appalled at how low political discourse in this country … more
Laura Catherine Schlessinger (born January 16, 1947) is an American talk radio host, socially conservative commentator and author. Her call-in radio program occasionally features short monologues on social and political topics, but consists mainly of her responses to callers' requests for personal advice. Schlessinger's answers have been variously characterized as direct, wise, to-the-point, abrupt and cruel. Her website says that her show "preaches, teaches, and nags about morals, values and ethics."
Previously, Schlessinger combined a local radio career with a private practice as a marriage and family counselor, but since going national she has concentrated her efforts on the daily syndicated The Dr. Laura Program, and on authoring self-help books. A television talk show was launched in 2000, but it was short-lived. The Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives, and The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands are among her bestselling works.