A few days ago, Dr. Laura Schlessinger -- who still seems to have a radio show -- took a call from a distressed listener. The caller -- a black woman -- is in an interracial marriage with a white man, and is increasingly frustrated with the racist jokes and comments made by her husband's friends and family. Here's the audio, from Media Matters, of the initial exchange:
From the outset, Dr. Laura is unconvinced that the comments were racist, and berates the caller's alleged "hypersensitivity," goes on to make a joke about a friend of hers -- which is actually kind of racist -- and dismisses the use of racial slurs by noting that "black guys say it [the 'N-word'] all the time." Finally, as if to underscore that last point, Dr. Laura elaborates by "quoting" a hypothetical black guy using the N-word. In the second segment of the argument, after the caller accuses Dr. Laura of having used the racial slur, she (oddly) denies and then repeats it six more times. In total, Dr. Laura uses the slur 11 times in five minutes.
That said, of everything in that exchange, Dr. Laura's use of the N-word was the least offensive -- and least racist -- element; quoting racial slurs isn't cool -- they're still racial slurs, with all the historical baggage that includes -- but you can imagine scenarios where quoting a racial slur is appropriate to the conversation.
In actuality, it's the rest of her rant that drips with racial animus. To recap: Dr. Laura immediately dismisses her caller's problems, uses a racist joke to prove her non-racism, insists that black people voted for Obama over nothing but racial solidarity (as if pre-Obama, African Americans never voted for Democrats), strongly resents the fact that "black guys" can use the N-word but she can't, and declares that "if you're that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry outside of your race." Dr. Laura isn't known for her sensitivity, but this is an impressive display of raw racial resentment.
As I said earlier, I was surprised to learn that Dr. Laura still had a radio show. But that surprise looks to be short-lived; even right-wing consumers have their limits, and Dr. Laura may have gone a bridge too far.
-- Jamelle Bouie
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