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