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Dr. Laura's Rant on Race Begs the Question: Just Who Needs a Doctor?

5 years ago
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What kind of doctor is this woman, and why is she still on the radio?

After scrubbing her show's website of the foul rant that prompted outrage -- and lives on in audio and transcript form on Media Matters for America -- Laura Schlessinger apologized. "I articulated the N-word all the way out -- more than one time," she said. "And that was wrong."

Show's over; time to move on? I don't think so.

Professional to professional, Dr. Laura, let Dr. Mary explain why, as offensive as it was, saying the N-word is the least of your problems.

A young black woman calls into your show to get some actual advice about a specific problem: her white husband's family and friends insult her using racist terms and epithets. "My husband ignores those comments, and it hurts my feelings," the caller says.

So, of course, Dr. Laura, you start talking about -- President Barack Obama.

Dr. Laura"Without giving much thought, a lot of blacks voted for Obama simply 'cause he was half-black," she said. "Didn't matter what he was gonna do in office, it was a black thing. You gotta know that."

Not only do you ignore the caller and change the subject to get to something that's obviously on your mind and in your heart, Dr. Laura, but you also insist you know the motivation of millions of black voters.

It's not the first time I've heard this ridiculous canard that black people voted for the president based simply on skin color. It assumes that only voters who aren't African-American use logic, reasoning and rational thought before reaching a conclusion. Maybe, just maybe, most African-American voters preferred the policies in the Democratic Party's platform. Did they vote overwhelmingly for Bill Clinton because they liked his smile? Did Al Gore -- another popular candidate with black voters -- wave shiny beads before their faces to mesmerize them? And, of course, Dr. Laura fails to mention that others might have voted against Obama for the same reason.

"We've got a black man as president, and we have more complaining about racism than ever. I mean, I think that's hilarious."

Yes, Dr. Laura. A black man is in the White House, so black folks should just stop complaining when people call them names, ridicule them and discriminate against them. Like you, I just can't stop laughing.

Once you get that out of your system, you return to the young woman, who asks what you, as an advice maven, think about the N-word.

"Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is..." And you don't stop there, Dr. Laura. As everyone knows by now, you then launch into an N-word litany, using the word often, leisurely, lovingly, without hesitation. Judging how trippingly it rolls off your tongue, I don't think it's the first time you've said it. Most people I know of every race can't say the word out loud -- it sticks in their throats. You, on the other hand, take a commercial break, come back and say it some more.

You don't seem to understand why people are shocked and disgusted by your behavior. Perhaps it's time for a history lesson.

This is the word that people with ropes used as they lynched men and women for an afternoon's entertainment. This is the word craven politicians shouted to stoke racial fear. This word has been used as background music to terror, which someone of your age and education must know.

Yet, you, Dr. Laura, are upset that this is one word that you cannot utter. For more reasons why, I recommend you listen to the anti-racist writer and activist Tim Wise, who says in response to that very question that "as a white person I will not bear the consequences of whatever decision black folks make about when, if and how to use the word."

"The history of that word in the mouths of white people is not a mixed history." Wise asks, is there a double standard, before answering yes. "History has been a double standard," he says, so you better get over it.

Most black people I know hate the word and never use it. The NAACP, which you managed to turn into a derogatory verb during your rant (nice trick, that) symbolically buried the N-word several years ago, so corrosive is its power. The late, great Richard Pryor, an early practitioner in his comedy routines, stopped using it after a trip to Africa. "To this day I wish I'd never said the word," he said. "I felt its lameness. It was misunderstood by people. They didn't get what I was talking about. Neither did I. . . . So I vowed never to say it again."

In the face of all this evidence, I wonder, Dr. Laura, how you've come to the conclusion that comedians on R-rated cable television shows set the tone for polite interaction between the races. How many doctors and lawyers -- of any color -- grocery clerks, teachers and nurses have you heard using the words you just used on the radio? Just who are you hanging out with? On second thought, Dr. Laura, I don't think I want to know.

By this time, the young woman who called you must be pretty sorry she turned to Dr. Laura for advice. (Remind me never to come to you when I have a problem.)

When you get back to her and her specific issue of dealing with her husband's white friends and family members' use of racial insults in her presence, your solution is -- to make it her fault.

"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. If you're going to marry out of your race, people are going to say, 'OK, what do blacks think? What do whites think? What do Jews think? What do Catholics think?'"

Now Dr. Laura, I am an African-American woman married to an American of Norwegian, English and Irish descent. When our large and diverse families get together on, for example, Thanksgiving, we eat turkey, watch football and tell jokes, though never the ones that ridicule or single out blacks, whites, Italians, Jews, Catholics, Poles, homosexuals or any other group. And you know what, Dr. Laura? We have a lot of fun.

But then, that's just us.

Click here to follow Mary C. Curtis on Twitter.

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My personal opinion is that we should just ban the word. It should just be banned, the end. You say it, it is a fine. Black people should not say it. White people should not say it. No one should say it. Words hurt. So, there should be a penalty associated with them. Lets say a $100 fine or something. Then if a stupid white kid calls a black kid a n, then instead of having 5 people beat up the stupid white kid (which would probably be the outcome of said event) then the black kid could just seek justice. Assuming there was evidence and other people heard it. Etc. Same goes for black kids too though. I hate hearing that out of their mouths just as much. Perhaps in refined society you do not hear that word spoken by black youth, but you sure do in the poverty sections and highschool. The end.

January 13 2011 at 12:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree that one of our country's greatest achievements is "religious" freedom. What if the Wikkan religion,or pagan religions raised $100-200 million dollars to construct a "Religious" structure,and funded it through international sources?And,can anyone enter for prayer, as happens in synagogues and churches,and Ba"hai temples? We live in a time when image is worth a million words! Is there another structure in all of America, which if calculated in todays dollars,cost 100-200 million USD? And Who and what is the Cordoba Institute? What symbology or signaling, in a global sense, does this equation make: WTC DOWN 2001= Mosque UP 2011? DOW/NAS UP 2001,DOW/NAS going down with a bullet 2010? To some cultures TOLERANCE is perceived as weakness,or worse stupidity, or perhaps even evil,if this is perceived as an easy trade off for jobs and money in a state widely known to be way over budget ! I think a compromise would be a Muslim community and education center,for all New Yorkers to enjoy the culture, and learn the true-life ways and values of American Muslims, without the difficulties that religious sensitivities raise at this time. Then if this works well, the majority of New Yorkers,in their quirky,inimitable way, will be more comfortable,after later facts and evolution of politics and understanding occur. I also think people in NYC and perhaps the Northeast Wash-Boston corridor are more tolerant and understanding of non-Americans,if they are either moneyed up or degreed up, that they are of Americans in the rest of the country who they feel are less capable of knowing the simple truth,or the obvious. But 2001 affected the entire country, and many young Americans have been maimed and killed in post 2001 Iraq and Afghanistan; our treasure has been greatly diminshed as has our confidence ( THE GREAT RECESSION) and every day our privacy is eroded by increasing security measures. The Christians have to spend gobs of money to defend a creche in the public square,people ridiculed Judge Moore in his fight to keep the Ten Commandments "near" his courtroom. So I think to others in the country, THE BIG APPLE would be known as THE BIG MOSQUE, and the NEW YORKER cover will show Manhattan,Ground Zero, and a river of tears.

August 26 2010 at 12:17 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

Cheryl Clark says"Let's get real, people. She wasn't there to help anyone in the first place --- she simply likes hearing herself ramble on for a paycheck." Couldnt you say the same thing about the Black Commedians?

August 25 2010 at 9:41 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Well as a white Rep guy im kinda disgusted when I hear Black Comedians use the word over and over, so I flip the channel. Id honestly watch if I didnt find it offensive. Where are all the calls for them to be taken off the air for being offensive? If you earn my respect you wont have to sue me for it.

August 25 2010 at 9:39 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
Bobby Reynolds

I'm not offended so much by Dr. Laura's use of the n-word as I am the advice she gave her caller. I'm with the author on this one. Dr. Laura criticizing the caller for being "hypersensitive" and her implication that her caller has to put up with the boorish behavior of her husband's family and friends because she maried a white man is, to put it politely, bovine excrement. She should have asked the caller if she has told her husband how she feels, and if so, why is he so spineless that he can't say, "Don't talk that way in front of my wife" to his friends and family. So what if some blacks use the n-word when referring to each other? It doesn't make it right. Besides, in the caller's case it's an issue of decorum, not politics. As for Dr. Laura's first amendment rights, she seems to think the first amendment protects her from criticism or rebuttal or boycotts. Sorry, it doesn't. She is free to say what she wants, but there is nothing in the constitution that says we have to sit back and take it.

August 23 2010 at 5:28 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I have ready many articles on the subject of Dr. Laura and this was by far the most thought-provoking. It was well written and resonated with me. I am also an african american married to Jewish man. We have large family dinners and the N-word never comes up. His family never asks me what blacks think and my family also does not assume he speaks for all jewish people. Dr. Laura(and I question what type of Dr she is) absolutely got what she deserved. Im glad shes off the air, however I never listened to her anyway.

August 23 2010 at 1:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If anyone has had the pleasure of coming across a person of color who understands what the "N" word means they know that these people don't take offence to someone calling them that word. They know that the person using the word has no concept of it's meaning and at the most has the depth of a pothole. Put best they will ask you if you would be mad at or argue with a person with a less than normal IQ. And if you do what does it say about you?

August 23 2010 at 11:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Actually, Dr. Laura has her degree in physiology not psychology. She is judgmental and fails to listen to her callers. Good riddance.

August 22 2010 at 5:59 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Why are we identifying the Americans who want to build a center on Park place by their religion instead of by their citizenship? Shall we now inform the public that catholics want to build a new store on Main street or Jews want to build a car dealership in Yonkers? What about the Buddists who are building a farm stand in Iowa?

August 22 2010 at 1:07 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

Dr. Laura was a licensed marriage, family and child counselor, and had a successful private practice for many years in the 1970s and 80s. I don't know if she's kept the license active, but she had the education and qualifications to be a therapist.

August 21 2010 at 9:48 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

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