Open Thread: The N-word Fells Dr. Laura, Not Horrid Advice on Interracial Relationships

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

Dr LauraWhen I surfaced from my all-weekend media training workshop to talk to my moms, she briefed me on the Latest Racially Shocking Statements from a Conservative’s Mouth.  The conservative in question: radio talk-show therapist Dr. Laura Schlessinger.  The question: a caller, a Black woman named Jade, asking for the best way to handle her White husband not responding to the racism from their familial and social circles.

Let’s just politely say the doctor spewed some hateful shit.

Dr. Laura’s N-word Filled Answer

The highlights for those who need to catch up like I did:

A self-identified Black woman named Jade called Dr. Schlessinger for advice on how to deal with her White husband failing to handle the racist comments coming from family and friends.  Schlessinger asks for a two examples of these commentst because “sometimes people are hypersensitive.”

Jade complied, offering a situation where a neighbor asks generalizing questions about “you Black people.”  To which Schlessinger said, “That’s not racist,” and added:

[W]ithout 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.

Schlessinger offered her own example of how not-racist she is….and yes, it involved her best Black friend (and bodyguard!).  She told said friend that she wanted him on her backyard-basketball team because “white men can’t jump.”

Jade then talked about the n-words she hinted at being called at in her encounters, and the talk-show host responded:

Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, 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. Don’t hang up, I want to talk to you some more.

At this point, if I was Jade, I’d run screaming from the phone.  She hung in there, though, in an attempt to engage Dr. Laura in a discussion about race (and, I’m thinking, to bring the conversation back to the original reason for her call).  The exchange:

Jade: I was a little caught back by the N-word that you spewed out, I have to be honest with you. But my point is, race relations —

Schlessinger: Oh, then I guess you don’t watch HBO or listen to any black comedians.

Jade: But that doesn’t make it right.

The doctor’s rejoinder was Jade had “too much sensitivity” and “not enough sense of humor”…and then proceeded to try to school her on when it’s OK to use the n-word. When Jade tried to correct her, Schlessinger retorted:

Oh, I see. So, a word is restricted to race. Got it. Can’t do much about that.

When Jade attempted to express her upset that Schlessinger even used the n-word on the air and at her, the talk-show host came out her neck with:

Don’t take things out of context. Don’t NAACP me.”

Come again, Dr. Laura?

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. 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?” Of course there isn’t a one-think per se. But in general there’s “think.”

And what I just heard from Jade is a lot of what I hear from black-think — and it’s really distressting [sic] and disturbing. And to put it in its context, she said the N-word, and I said, on HBO, listening to black comics, you hear “nigger, nigger, nigger.” I didn’t call anybody a nigger. Nice try, Jade. Actually, sucky try.

Need a sense of humor, sense of humor — and answer the question. When somebody says, “What do blacks think?” say, “This is what I think. This is what I read that if you take a poll the majority of blacks think this.” Answer the question and discuss the issue. It’s like we can’t discuss anything without saying there’s -isms?

We have to be able to discuss these things. We’re people — goodness gracious me. Ah — hypersensitivity, OK, which is being bred by black activists. I really thought that once we had a black president, the attempt to demonize whites hating blacks would stop, but it seems to have grown, and I don’t get it. Yes, I do. It’s all about power. I do get it. It’s all about power and that’s sad because what should be in power is not power or righteousness to do good — that should be the greatest power.


Just aren’t enough cusswords in the English language.

The next day, Schlessinger apologized, complete with good intentions:

I talk every day about doing the right thing.  And yesterday, I did the wrong thing.

I didn’t intend to hurt people, but I did.  And that makes it the wrong thing to have done.

I was attempting to make a philosophical point, and I articulated the “n” word all the way out – more than one time.  And that was wrong.  I’ll say it again – that was wrong.

I ended up, I’m sure, with many of you losing the point I was trying to make, because you were shocked by the fact that I said the word.  I, myself, realized I had made a horrible mistake, and was so upset I could not finish the show.  I pulled myself off the air at the end of the hour.  I had to finish the hour, because 20 minutes of dead air doesn’t work.  I am very sorry.  And it just won’t happen again.

Yeah, well…it was a little too late for that because bit a bit of the online-verse blew up over Schlessinger n-wording Jade, more specifically who has the right to even use that loaded word.  Jam Donaldson says at BV Black Voices:

When will white people just accept the fact that black folks can use the N-word, but they cannot. Why is this such a complicated life rule for them?

It’s actually quite simple. Jews can say things about other Jews that non-Jews can’t say. Gays can say things about gays that straights can’t say. Latinos can say things about Latinos that non-Latinos can’t say. I have an Asian friend who referred to new Asian immigrants as FOBs (fresh-off-the-boats). But she probably would have kicked my ass if I had referred to them that way. And I respect that. You can talk about your own mama, but no one else can. It’s really easy, white people.


Look, white folks, I’ll break it down for you: Black folks don’t call each other “nigger”; we say “nigga.” And whether you accept it or not, there is a huge distinction.

As an African American woman, I can’t ever remember using “nigger” in my life in referring to another black person. Though, on a bad day at my DMV, I may say “nigga” in my head several times.

Dr. Laura and other white folks who put forth this “well, black people use it, why can’t I” argument seem so tied to their own supremacy that they just can’t accept that there are things we can do that they can’t — and it bugs the hell out of them.

This is not a debate on the infamous N-word. Some people say no one should use it; others say it’s fine. Frankly, I couldn’t care less. Either way, this is not about that.

It’s about respecting a culture’s right to its own intracultural norms. If your use of the word offends me, that’s really all you need to know.

We don’t have to explain why you can’t say it, we don’t have to defend our use of it and we don’t have to tolerate you saying it. You just can’t. It’s like family. You can talk about each other, but no one else can. And as long as everyone remembers that, we should get along just fine.

Until it did turn into an argument over the n-word. The Loop 21’s Keli Goff says:

By no means am I a fan of Dr. Laura, (as she’s known), but I’m even less of a fan of the n-word, which I find more offensive, more harmful, and more poisonous to our community than Dr. Laura will ever be. So the reason I’d like to thank her is because I’m hoping that her recent on air meltdown will finally help settle a philosophical debate over the n-word that has raged for years. On one side of the debate are those of us who believe that no one should say the n-word — not a white racist and not a black comedian — ever. On the other side are those who believe that if you’re black, you essentially get an n-word lifetime free pass. (I don’t recall ever receiving mine in the mail, but I am black so I must have one lying around somewhere.) But Dr. Laura reminds us why such logic is not just flawed, but dangerous.

Now I happen to consider Dr. Laura’s laughably flawed logic more offensive than her use of the n-word, but considering her doctorate is actually in physiology and not psychology like many believe, it’s really not that surprising that she knows so little about people or race relations. But the fact that she felt justified saying what she did confirms a fundamental reality: Arbitrary rules about who can say the n-word and who cannot simply do not work. Dr. Laura felt justified saying what she did because a host of rappers and comedians continue to validate her perspective.

The Grio used Schlessinger’s n-word controversy to say this:

Although Dr. Laura’s use of the n-word has received the bulk of the coverage, the real interest rests in the observations that Jade and Dr. Laura shared regarding the nation’s racial temperature, especially since the election of Barack Obama Since the election, Jade noted, “racism has come to another level that’s unacceptable.” She is not alone in her observation, at least not within the black community.

Many African-Americans have either directly witnessed or heard family members and friends mention how emboldened some of their white co-workers have become in expressing their racist views since Obama’s election. The rationale seems to be that, since there’s a black man leading the nation, it’s okay to say almost anything. On black-oriented radio shows like The Tom Joyner Morning Show and Rev. Al Sharpton’s Keeping It Real, African-American callers feel the disrespect President Obama receives from the Tea Party, conservatives in Congress and on the Internet is tied to his race and not his politics.

And it roiled onward, to the point that Schlessinger announced last night on Larry King Live that she’s ending her radio show.

Well, I’m here to say that my contract is up for my radio show at the end of the year and I have made the decision not to do radio anymore. The reason is: I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what’s on my mind, and in my heart, what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is a time to silence a voice of dissent, and attack affiliates and attack sponsors.

I’m sort of done with that. I’m not retiring. I’m not quitting. I feel energized actually, stronger and freer to say the things that I believe need to be said for people in this country.

The one thing subsumed in all of this is Jade’s original question: how to deal her racially clueless White husband.  Renee Martin at Global Comment says:

Dr. Laura’s advice should have been very simple. She should have told this woman to speak candidly to her husband about how these comments made her feel. She should have supported this woman, firm in the knowledge that her husband’s silence made him complicit in the many difficulties that his wife faced. What person who truly loves another desires to hurt them so deeply? Perhaps what this woman really needed was the courage to be forthright and to question the nature of commitment between the two of them. White Americans are already the least likely to participate in interracial relationships, and to pretend that the issue is the hyper-sensitivity of people of colour is to completely ignore the White hegemony in any and all interactions.

The media has fixated on the N word, because quite frankly, it is easy to say that a racial slur is wrong. Even those that are extremely uncommitted to challenging their racial privilege will think twice about publicly uttering a slur because that is what racism has come to mean. Society is far more willing to ignore and even encourage covert forms of racism. Not saying the N word is enough for many to consider themselves above race, however, unfortunately this is far from the truth. Speaking about Black/White relationships is far more difficult and this is specifically why no one is addressing the issues of the covert racism that people of colour often face.

To acknowledge that even situations that Whiteness thinks are benign are loaded with at a very minimum racial insensitivity means a challenge to White supremacy. There cannot be interracial love without accountability and this is something that Whiteness has been avoiding for generations.

Twanna Hines says at Huffington Post:

Additionally, when an interracial couple seeks advice from so-called marriage counselors — like Dr. Laura — it would be helpful if such professionals treat the request with the respect it deserves.

Your thoughts?


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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

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