Radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger melted down recently on the air and just couldn't say the n-word enough times to exercise her freedom of speech. Never mind that she has enjoyed freedom of speech enough to get paid to say that lesbian and gay people are a "biological error" and that all gay men are pedophiles.
Her history of offensive remarks over the years sparked activism to fight her encouragement of hate and homophobia in 2000, which got her TV show cancelled. In 1998, she said that feminists are destroying motherhood. She had the worst advice ever for moms of autistic children.
Far worse than her political stupidity, she's personally cruel. Laura Schlessinger has ridden to fame by abusing and berating the people who call to ask her for advice. She masquerades as an authority, and like a cult leader, attracts people who aren't sure where else to turn. To be overly generous, it seems natural to smirk a little during moments when a person is whining, and someone else calls them out with a plain-speaking truth. Problem is, Dr. Laura poses as an expert and a therapist while she leans way to the side of compounding her callers' troubles with cheap shots. Her "advice" -- under the guise of bluntness or common sense -- is emotional abuse to her callers, in front of the public, to entertain and to make listeners solidify common and ugly bigotry.
She told an African-American caller, Jade, that she was too sensitive and that she should not marry outside her race. She then blamed Jade's feelings on "black activists," thus denying Jade even the agency to have generated her own feelings or opinions.
Racism Review, in Dr. Laura's Racist Rant links to CNN's panel discussion of racism and this incident:
I'd like to do a round-up of posts and then talk more about the caller, Jade, and her problem. She was calling to say that when people are rude to her in her own home, her husband does not back her up. Maybe she expected Dr. Laura to tell her "Toughen up and yell at your husband."
Here's what some bloggers have been saying about Dr. Laura and this incident:
You cannot erase the history of how this word has been used to make it palatable. It will always be painful to hear, but if we are at all honest, it becomes expected. You see, no matter how not racist White people portend to be, if an opportunity exists to use race as a weapon invariably it will happen. It is a hard truth but a truth nonetheless.
Probably every black person in America has been called on by some clueless white person in America to speak for an entire race of people and answer for stuff that the individual in question may have absolutely nothing to do with. But it’s especially sticky when it’s a bit tied up in your relationship.
Those of you that have been in situations like this, do you have any advice for Jade?
Twanna A. Hines, in Black Women, White Men & Dr. Laura's Views on Interracial Marriage gives her own answer to Jade and her views on interracial marriage. Twanna is a sociologist and a writer on sex and relationships. She has also faced racism for dating interracially:
Additionally, as a black woman who dated interracially on numerous occasions, I know what it's like to be jaded by experiences similar to Jade's. I once attended a wedding where a white male guest scowled when he saw my boyfriend's differently-hued fingers interlaced with mine -- then, he called me an animal. My guy ignored him. Want to know what that feels like? It was as if my partner and I were swimming life's ocean together; however, when racism's waves suddenly crashed into us -- he swam to shore for safety and quietly watched as I drowned.
Feministing: Dr. Laura Ends Show To Become Racist Pundit
See Jane Soar doesn't comment on the N-word rant, but does outline some reasons that people like Schlessinger. See Jane praises Schlessinger's book "Hiding from Happiness" for its kick-in-the-pants attitude and feels that in the book, she encourages women to take responsibility for their own lives.
Redhead Ranting: Dr. Laura and the N Word. Redhead Ranting feels more sympathetic to Dr. Laura; that fear, or "political correctness" means white people can't talk about race. Some of her commenters discuss their perception of the "hypersensitivity" of people of color.
Michelle Malkin, in a brief post, Dr. Laura announces end of radio show, says, "More power to her." Well, the comments on Malkin's post are lively! I've never heard the phrase "Industrial Racism Complex" before!
So, back to Jade. Like Twanna and Angry Black Woman, I care more about Jade's question than I care about an ignorant racist shock jock radio host. Jade wanted not to be marked down by her in-laws and white friends and asked to represent all African-American people. She was also subjected to comments about race that made her uncomfortable. And it sounded like her husband either didn't back her up in the moment or didn't even see the racism.
My advice for Jade: Your husband doesn't share your perspective because he doesn't have your background or experience. In this case, you have to commit to educate your husband and maybe his family too. If you want to take on that role, you become a sort of diplomat and teacher and it's a hard role. They can't see racism, because they have never had to. I think that in this kind of role, it is useful to give people things to read, or movies to watch that are outside their cultural or ethnic background. They won't instantly become less racist -- or if you don't want to call it that -- less unintentionally rude. But over time, they will start noticing.
I'm not saying bust out your 1983 copy of "This Bridge Called My Back" for a birthday present or go "Hey, that's racist!" at Thanksgiving dinner. Fiction, history, or memoirs might go down smoother than direct confrontation over specific incidents between you and your friends or in-laws. While this shouldn't have to be your burden, in your case, it probably has to be your job at first.
You need to be able to trust your husband to share your reality. All that said, maybe you should just plain old get mad at them sometimes. While it risks an even more rude or racist knee-jerk reaction, maybe it'll wake someone up.
Meanwhile, it's extremely important that you have some support for your own feelings. Being the subject in this situation is isolating. For me it's like a cold icy wall just slammed down around my heart, and I have to struggle with bitterness and resentment. You need your anger validated and your hurt soothed. Don't feel all that alone. Find some solidarity. You might find that best from women in a similar situation!
What advice would you give to Jade? Do you think my advice is wrong? Have you been in a situation where your partner doesn't see a reality that you see? Where someone close to you doesn't see racism, thinks everyone should be colorblind, laughs at rape jokes while you cry, blames poor people for their poverty while you grew up on food stamps, thinks disabled people -- except for you -- are societal burdens and should be euthanized?
What advice would you give to the people I haven't addressed: Jade's husband, in-laws, and friends? They're the ones who really need to check themselves, in my opinion!
How do you deal with a serious difference in perspective in your close relationships? Were you able to bridge the differences, or did it break up your marriage or friendship? What, if anything, helped?Liz Henry
Composite: Tech & Poetics
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