August 20, 2010

Dr. Laura Quitting Radio to Regain Her First Amendment Right to Say "Nigger"?

All I can do is shake my head.  Black and white folks alike who you think could use their common sense to navigate the issue of race just don't.  Sure, race is a complicated mess, but in this country we've been enmeshed in this issue for so long, that there are some elementary elements of this divisive issue that we ought to know our way around by now.
If you hadn't tuned in last time, Dr. Laura used the word "nigger' several times in her response to a black woman calling for advice about how to deal with her white husband and his friends racially insensitive comments. She apologized the next day for having used the word at all and repeatedly saying it.
  Following her apology, she appeared on the Larry King Show and announced she planned to leave radio:

She wants to regain her First Amendment rights to say what she wants to say? Really? In the wake of this dumb controversy that she created by jumping out of her own bag of unfounded racial indignation on an unsuspecting caller, its her position that she has been denied her rights to free speech? My post title is facetious, but its got a bit of accuracy to it. What are you saying Dr. Laura? That you want to regain your first amendment right to say "nigger"?  Its so very disappointing to see someone of obvious intelligence operate within such a huge blind spot of prejudice and stereotype.  I've listened to her show for years. She's not racist in my opinion, but she has bought into very prejudiced, stereotypical habits of thinking about race, a soft bigotry if you will.  For someone who can be so insightful and challenge others to rethink their assumptions, when confronting the issue of race, Dr. Laura is too caught up in this soft bigotry to step back and see where she's missing the boat:
  • On the use of the word nigger between blacks, she's wrong: black comics using vulgar humor for paying adults on HBO are not representative of how blacks deal with each other daily.  There are subsets of black people (some black comics, a lot of our young people) who refer to other blacks with the word "nigger" routinely.  But thats not the majority of black people talking to each other.  In point of fact, the average black person would be offended by other blacks calling them nigger, let alone other white people.  You labor under a mistaken impression if you believe that the majority of blacks routinely address each other using this vulgarity.  Its not true. It irritates me to no end that many black people responding to this minor controversy don't make this point.
  • As I heard someone on the radio this morning say, the whole "nigger" piece of this is what's making people pay attention, because the good Dr. is getting a pass for the other piece of soft bigotry in what she had to say, namely her statement that most black people voted for Obama because he was half black and we didn't think or care about what he might actually do.  You gotta love that: presumably, all white people conduct a searching examination of the issues when they cast their vote, but black folks just vote their color and don't think at all.  #1That is an arrogant and bigoted statement. #2 Black people voted for Obama because he was capable, qualified and bonus, he looked like us (IMO).  Folks that didn't vote for Obama (white or black) obviously didn't think the first two were true and were not swayed by the last, but for Dr. Laura or any other white person to say that his racial identity was the only reason blacks voted for Obama is a bigoted statement, point blank. #3. In America, last time I checked, you could vote for anybody you wanted to, for whatever reason you wanted to: because of the race of the candidate, because you wanted to influence primary elections and create riots in the streets. (Operation Chaos anyone?) or because you think they are cute.  You get to exercise the franchise any way you damn well please.
  • This trivial debacle has now descended into the "I'm a victim" arena and its quite off putting coming from Dr. Laura. Nobody has taken your free speech rights Dr. Laura and you don't get to control how people express their disagreement with you.  You said what you said, you meant what you meant.  People are free to voice their disagreement to your sponsors, advertisers, etc. You don't decry such behavior when people on the right that agree with you deploy the same freedoms against leftist commentators they don't like.  And all of it flows because you don't have a principled, defensible stand on this issue. You engaged in a bunch of stereotyping of black people, erroneously asserting we call each other nigger all the time, that we voted without thinking for Obama because he was black and you luxuriate in saying "nigger" repeatedly out of some weird misplaced pique that white people can't say it. All of that to a black female long time fan of the show who called to get some relationship advice, which she never got because you could not resist the opportunity to get your racial indignation rocks off. 
Here's a bit of discussion on the topic also from CNN.  How the heck is it that Tim Wise has got the most commonsense on this?

       I wondered when the caller herself might surface as well and caught this piece of interview with Nita Hanson, who was on the receiving end of this and seems like a nice enough person.

     Hearing her perspective was interesting. She's in an interracial relationship and those relationships are often the brunt of a lot of disapproval. They are embodiments of the racial divide in some ways and to hear Ms. Hanson talk about crying jags and being hurt and confused strikes me as a tad silly.  This is not old news.  She was a fan of the show (as am I) so I don't quite get the surprise that Dr. Laura went all mercurial on her.  Fellow blogger Constructive Feedback thought "Two members of an interracial couple should expect to deal with the fact that we do not live in a "color blind society".  I think I'm inclined to agree.  She sounds overly surprised at the idea that they would encounter insensitivity in the course of their union.
    I do think she has a very legit beef in terms of her husband's reaction to some of the crap.  She describes a scenario where racially themed questions and comments keep coming up over and over, some of them probably insensitive at best and probably full of the same soft bigotry Dr. Laura put on display during the call. The interviews mainly left me thinking where the heck is her husband? Right now, not having heard from the guy, he comes off seeming like a bit of a jerk, participating in or permitting a lot of racially insensitive commentary around his wife from his friends and family.  She called in about his butt, I'm waiting to hear a little from him.  Whoo boy, I'll bet this whole deal is way more than he thought he was getting into when he married a black woman. LOL!
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