Dr. Laura Schlessinger knew that she was being provocative with her guest, but she did not care. She ignored the response of the caller who had expressed distaste for the expletive the radio counselor was reiterating. The discussion of interracial marriage, and the specific concern her guest was sharing, did not warrant any reference to using the so-called n-word. Schlessinger’s insistence on recounting her use of the term was indisputably deliberately insulting and insensitive—and she consciously chose to do it. The “it” can only be characterized as hate speech.
Dr. Laura embarked on a commentary completely irrelevant to the issue at hand and definitely beyond her expertise. Bearing the cloak of white privilege and arrogance, she felt at ease remarking on the status of race relations after the election of the country’s first black president. Her ability to control her show, to disconnect from guests, and to make statements as if she is in the know about subjects about which she is substantially ignorant demonstrates the very definition of racism.
Schlessinger wants to have the liberty to be able to use incendiary rhetoric whenever she pleases, even when her words cross over into the area of hate speech. She made the claim that she did not call her guest the n-word; however, the tone of her echoing that word betrays her xenophobia and disrespect for the millions of people who believe that term to be derogatory, explosive, and unconscionable. At sixty-three, having spent over twenty-five years on the air, she is financially solvent and able to quit her show to avoid engaging in the necessary dialogue regarding not only her impertinence, but also her impudence. She is running away from the discussion of her actions, and she has the privilege to eschew any responsibility for her feckless behavior.
In our very racialized society, there probably should remain the perspective that the n-word cannot be spoken in the same manner by African and European Americans. It may be reduced to an unfair double standard, rather than appreciating the historical and social circumstances and contexts that necessitate the distinctions about who can say what at the present time. As a civil libertarian, I am a strong advocate of freedom of speech and antagonistic towards censorship. Nevertheless, I do believe the court of public opinion analyzes what is fitting and proper to attribute to people, and the masses of people need to be ready to censure the remarks of a commentator without embracing the scourge of censoring.
What intensifies the racist juggernaut of Schlessinger’s words is her disparagement of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Her comment about that organization is belittling and, again, demonstrates a depreciation of history and the celebrated role of that organization in concert with the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Last year, the NAACP celebrated 100 years since its founding and the wonderful work it has done during that period to oppose the perniciousness of discrimination. Schlessinger took advantage of the recent attacks of the NAACP on conservative politics and media to throw a dart at that esteemed organization.
It is an irony that Dr. Schlessinger’s comments reveal that prejudice, stereotyping, and the paradigm of racism are alive and well in this country—especially when she seemed to be claiming that racism is illusory today and that people are taking advantage of a black president to claim that race is still a problem in the United States. As she departs from the air waves in December, let us be thankful for this lesson she has so graciously taught us!