Alex Blaze

Dr. Laura is still alive and still conservative

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 13, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: conservative politics, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, race

In case you wanted to know, Dr. Laura still has a radio show, and she's still as classy as ever. Here's her tirade against racism, if by "racism" one means "Complaining about how white people can't say the word 'nigger' without upsetting others, which is really a whole lot worse than slavery and Jim Crow put together."

A black woman married to a white man calls in asking what to do when his family is over and they make racist comments. Dr. Laura immediately wants examples saying that some people are "oversensitive," and the caller says that people will ask her why black people are like this or that, which Dr. Laura says isn't racism. Dr. Laura then points out that it doesn't matter, black people are just as bad because they only voted for Obama because he's black and didn't care about what he'd do in office.

The caller then asks about the "N-word," saying that that's being used, and Dr. Laura responds, "Black guys use that all the time." She continues: "Turn on HBO, listen to a buh-lack comic, and all you hear is nigger nigger nigger. I don't get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it's a horrible thing. But when black people say it, is affectionate."

She goes to commercial, and when she comes back the caller points out that Dr. Laura used the N-word. Dr. Laura responds that people can't complain about racism anymore now that Barack Obama is president. The caller disagrees; Dr. Laura accuses her of having a "chip on your shoulder" (and Dr. Laura is completely free of resentment?).

dr-laura.jpgThey go back and forth, Dr. Laura getting more and more faux-idiotic, and the caller says Dr. Laura "spew[ed] out the nigger word." She says she hopes everybody heard it, and Dr. Laura responds: "They did and I'll say it again, nigger nigger nigger." Dr. Laura accuses the caller of trying to "NAACP" her by taking her words "out of context." She goes on to tell the caller that she's "hypersensitive" and has no "sense of humor" (so she was joking?) and that she should "marry out of your race."

Dr. Laura then repeats "Nigger nigger nigger" and accused the caller of making a "sucky try" to take her words out of context. She accuses "black activists" of blocking discussion of race and says that the "demonization" of whites was supposed to end with the election of Barack Obama. She says she doesn't get it, then she does, that it's all about "power."

I agree - it is all about power, which is why she's whining so much. It's an affront to her that any people exist that think that black people should be treated the same as white people. It's so natural, to her, that white people should be in a position of privilege that she feels that the US having a black president is an attack on the white race, so white people are the real victims now.

Most people would agree that context is important, except that the context of her use of the word "nigger" here was to air her resentments about black people, so that doesn't get her off the hook. I do wonder how much attention Dr. Laura would have gotten here if she hadn't said that one word, if instead she just expressed her contempt for "black activists" and "hypersensitive" people and "black people." I mean, even without that word, the rant would sound pretty racist to me. And Dr. Laura has shown the sense in the past to stay away from individual words - she called gay people "biological error[s]" and ranted against us for a while without using the word "faggot."

Anyway, she released an apology for saying the word "nigger" itself but not for anything else, even though it was ignorance piled on ignorance. I wouldn't expect much else from the radio host who waves the "personal responsibility" flag whenever she can but then blames the fact that people think she's homophobic on everyone but herself.


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By the end of the call, Dr. Laura has clearly shown herself to have some seriously racist attitudes. More later.

But the black woman calling also is over-sensitive, not because her in-laws use the n-word, but because she objects to white people, in this instance white people who are part of her extended famaily, asking about "why black people are like this or that." Granted, the manner in which they ask such questions is critical: if the question itself is presented as a veiled insult, then it is indeed racist. But if it is asked out of a genuine desire to understand black culture and socialization mechanisms, then the woman is being over-sensitive. (If the in-laws are using the n-word as an insult to blacks, then I fear that the questions might be veiled insults also.)

I ask my black friends about "why black families tend to do X" or similar questions about their worldviews, and they never indicate to me that they are offended. (If my questions have ever offended them, they have kept it to themselves.)

As for Dr. Laura, her quoting the hypothetical black comedian is OK with me --- we have seen many such comics become multi-millionaires by delivering such content. Her second use, to show definace to the caller, is inexcusable --- she did it specifically to offend the caller's desire to be treated with respect.

But I agree with you, Alex, that Dr. Laura's attitudes, such as white racism can no longer exist because we now have a black president, are far more offensive than her first use of the n-word. Unfortunately, (1) such attitudes are very common among whites, I am very disappointed to admit, and (2) white people can never participate in a healing dialog about race, and at the same time deny their own continuing racist attitudes.

I think the best we can do is start from the assumption that everyone has prejudices about something, which is true --- whites have to admit they are racist, black have to admit they are racist --- and then meaningful exchange begins to be possible. While everyone is playing the "I'm not the gulity one" game, we will just go 'round and 'round and 'round.

Ugh on Dr. Laura. But the big question for me was: why would ANY person of colour call in to this show?

That being said, Schlessinger's outburst is ridiculous and racist. It's also so clearly a baiting show - the clips make it clear that she's desperate for listeners. I would add something that will make many uncomfortable - her racism looks a lot like white liberal racism in the U.S today. Remember Geraldine Ferraro and her declaration that Obama needed to wait for his turn?

A.J, I'm with you on issues of racism within the white community (inasmuch as there is, any more, a homoegenous "white community).

But...I would also add that I don't think we can boil it down to: "whites have to admit they are racist, black have to admit they are racist." I don't think there's an equivalence between white-on-black racism and black-on-white racism. For one thing, I'd want to know how the latter is construed. For another, the history of white racism upon blacks and people of colour in general, in the U.S gets erased when we reduce it to such equivalencies. It allows us to forget that racism in the U.S has a long history, and it's tied to several system and institutional structures that are still prevalent today. Structurally, black people are still held responsible for far more than white people ever are, and any such conversation where people have to be held accountable for their racism by simply acknowledging that all sides are racist isn't going anywhere. Such a conversation allows us to forget that the simplest structural problems, like the lack of affordable and healthy food in areas like Chicago's South Side, have far more devastating and long-term, generational consequences than, say, a black person hurling a racial epithet at a white man.

That's not to preclude challenging anyone who makes racist comments about white people but to say that we can't flatten out an entire centuries-long history of racism and racist exploitation without losing our way in understanding that racism towards black people and people of colour - the kind that helped this country prosper to the extent it has - runs deeper and longer, backwards and forwards, than in our own time.

--- LONG RESPONSE --- OPTIONAL READING ---

Yasmin, you read more into my phrase you quoted than what I intended --- but beyond that, you make several very valid points.

First, when I said, "Whites are racist, blacks are racist" I did not mean that the two groups have suffered equally because of such racism --- such an interpretation is so far-fetched that I thought that I didn't have to disclaim it.

What I meant was that both black and white must be open to the idea that their attitudes are at fault in the present --- I can't learn anything from you, Yasmin, if I cling to the notion that I already know everything that's worth knowing. Unfortunately, many of us, white and black, think we are experts when we all actually have lots and lots to learn from each other. Moreover, I can't move on to correct a racist attitude, once I identify it, if I am investing all of my energy in finding justifications so that I don't have to admit my racism.

Although this mechanism is a major, major problem among white Americans, it is also a possible problem among blacks, too. For example, a very difficult issue between whites and blacks is trust. I know what it is like to be "automatically" distrusted by a black person simply because I am white. (By the way, I also know what it is like to be "automatically" distrusted, or socially rejected, by certain gay male circles because I "look too straight" --- doesn't happen as much in mid-West, but happened quite a bit in the gay metros in California.) Although this attitude is "racist" (defination: a pre-judgment about me based on my race), I also see that for black people to generally distrust whites is historically justifiable.

So, speaking about only today, how much of this distrust is a valid adaption to present conditions, and how much of it is a "prejudicial" tendency that black children learn from their elders? That is a valid question, but it is also impossible to answer unless with are talking about an individual, real-world situation --- the question has no "general" answer.

Furthermore, such distrust will be very difficult for blacks to abandon, because distrust tends to protect blacks, to "work" --- or at least do no material, identifiable harm. But rarely is a black person exposed to painful or disfavorable consequences because they did not trust a white person (although we might look carefully at dynamics that occur between black students and white teachers).

Yasmin, I do disagree with you when you say:

... any such conversation where people have to be held accountable for their racism by simply acknowledging that all sides are racist isn't going anywhere. Such a conversation allows us to forget that the simplest structural problems, like the lack of affordable and healthy food in areas like Chicago's South Side, have far more devastating and long-term, generational consequences than, say, a black person hurling a racial epithet at a white man.

No, it needs to be made clear that such ground rules ("Everyone has prejudices") are not meant to justify or wipe away historical injustices --- and economic and environmental injustices such as you cite are exactly some of the things we need to talk about. Fair housing and lending is obviously another --- but no one claims that whites have suffered as much as blacks.

There is a certain amount of willingness to listen, a certain amount of vulnerability required in order for such delicate exchanges to be constructive. This "American dialog on race" that we have been chasing for decades is as elusive and difficult as family therapy --- in a way, that's what it is on a grand scale --- and some therapy works, some doesn't. So far, the "great dialog on race" hasn't changed much, and it is time for whites and blacks to ask, "What are the stumbling blocks here? What do I have to do differently?"

My final point in response to you, Yasmin, has to do with handling the past. Americans (white and black both) need to do something contradictory: We must acknowledge the past, and let go of it at the same time. Like most damaged relationships, a lot of forgiving has to take place. Relationships aren't healed if resentment carries on. There is also the issue of "playing victim" that is too sensitive for me to go into properly here. (But I will say that whites play the victim game, too --- it has various forms, but the main one is "reverse discrimination" followed closely by the "But I've worked so hard!" game.)

Unfortunately, I can't write a book on this subject here. But the issues at hand are the same ones that M. Scott Peck worked with in his book The Different Drummer in which he talks about what he calls "true community" and the conditions that are necessary to achieve it. Right now we are in what he calls "pseudo-community" where everybody plays nicey-nicey to each other and pretends that everything is just fine. And that's how the white folks get away with pretending that "Racism is Over". A few of us are in the stage that Peck calls "chaos" --- where I try to fix you and you try to fix me. Even with your and my motivations as pure as they are, Yasmin, you still mostly wrote about what is wrong with whites and I've used examples about what I see "wrong" with blacks.

Beyond chaos is "emptiness" where I let go of my expections about you, and you about me. For example, whites generally need to get over the idea that black people ought to be white people with black skin --- they need to see that there is a lot more than melanin to being black. Urban whites are getting this, but I doubt the news is reaching rural whites.

Beyond the emptying of such expectations lies "true community," where I accept you totally as you are, and what you want, and how you go about pursuing it. That's the Promised Land that MLK spoke of and for which we are still searching. Don't stop now, we sure as Hell ain't there yet.

I always thought she was an undead zombie personally, the newsworthy part of this was that she's actually alive. Otherwise, it's just more bullshit spewing from the mouth of a known rightwing nutjob.

Paige Listerud | August 14, 2010 1:49 AM

She's still alive.

She's still conservative.

She's still NOT A DOCTOR, except for having a doctorate in English Lit.

The ironic use of a derogatory term by a community against whom it is employed is not derogatory. It does not justify the use of the term by others. I would think a doctor of literature would understand the uses of irony.

Dr. Jillian, you have hit the nail on the head! "Irony" is exactly the word that is needed to explain why we find it acceptable for black comedians to use this word, but rarely anyone else. Sometimes sarcasm, which is closely related to irony, can supply a similar justification.

I know. She does realize that comedians get away with saying offensive things more than normal people do because that's the point of comedy, right?

Honestly I never heard my African American friends, when I was living in the US, use that word. Not the best evidence of anything to talk about the people I know, but it makes her statements sound just out of touch.

Just for the record: Dr Laura does not have a PhD in English. It's a PhD in biology or some science. That's important because PhDs in English do not want to claim her. The point ultimately is that she has no educational qualifications to be giving advice.

Chitown Kev | August 14, 2010 10:03 AM

"Black guys use that all the time." She continues: "Turn on HBO, listen to a buh-lack comic, and all you hear is nigger nigger nigger. I don't get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it's a horrible thing. But when black people say it, is affectionate."

There are many blacks that would agree with Dr. Laura on this. Sure, it would be a controversal stand for her to take but a lot of blacks would applaud her for taking it.

For me, simply, she used the "n-word" 10 times too many, as if merely saying it was the equivalent of a hit off of the crack pipe.

And there were things said in those clips that were far, far more racist than that.

I'm not a fan of Dr. Laura, but in a sense she has a point, even though it could've been put differently.
The unfortunate thing is that liberals tend to have a knee-jerk reaction when they construe something as being anti-black, anti-muslim or anti-anything that's not white. I've seen it time and again and find it just as narrow-minded and insulting as any bigoted conservative.
Here's an example of a society taking political correctness to an extreme: Ever see one of those ads for a home buglary prevention system? Okay, now, in the picture for the ad how many times is the crook anything other than white, and I mean pasty pale? A cracker, which, by the way, is okay to say. Uh- huh.

(a) OK, so the burglars in the security commercial are white ... so what? Are white people being pegged as criminals because of it? Of course not! If the burglar were non-white, would that re-inforce any pre-existing stereotypes? Probably yes. So the advertiser is merely picking the race that is least likely to be harmed by being depicted in this way. (If Star Trek were still on the air, maybe the burglars chould be Klingons or Romulans.)

(b)The only reason that white people do not get upset about "cracker" (or "honky" or ...) is because whites don't perceive themselves as likely to lose anything tangible due to the "white people are crackers" attitude. Let the first employer, white or non-white, say, "Look, I'm not giving you this job (or letting you into this school) because you're a cracker" and watch that white person break the sound barrier while filing the lawsuit.

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Joe-Allen Doty | August 14, 2010 11:49 PM

Her doctorate is in Physiology. She is not even qualified to be a social worker or psychologist.

I never taught it; but, in 1969, I was certified by the Okla. State Department of Education certification committee to teach psychology at the high school level. I didn't even ask for that; they gave it to me because of all of the psychology and counseling courses I took for the Bachelor and Master of Education degrees. My major fields were Spanish and Education with minors in art and French.