Over nine million listeners—soon to double that amount by the time that I finish writing this essay—listened to Doctor Laura Schlesinger this week when she got into an argument on her radio show with a listener named Jade. For those unfamiliar with what happened, Doctor Laura—in an attempt to make a philosophical point that African-American comedians on HBO incessantly say the N-word without offending viewers—said the N-word repetitively. Although Jade told Doctor Laura that her use of the N-word bothered her, Doctor Laura still said it again. Furthermore, Doctor Laura stated that she was not calling anyone a N*g*er, that she was just making a point.
Now hold on. This is Doctor Laura, an educated and presumably very intelligent woman of some renown in the T.V psycho-babble entertainment word who is regarded by many to be a leader in that profession. She felt that she was doing the right thing. Wrong. Just because an African-American freely calls out the N-word doesn’t mean that they are right to do so—which is what Jade also told Dr. Laura before being rudely interrupted. One would think that someone of the stature of Doctor Laura would have learned from Michael Richards—formerly known as Kramer from TV’s Seinfeld—when he screamed out the N-word in public. Doctor Laura should’ve known better.
Doctor Laura’s argument that she should be allowed to say the N-word freely as long as she’s not calling anyone a N*g*er is patently ridiculous and it made me wonder. Before that now awfully revelatory call from Jade, has she ever freely said the N-word in the presence of friends of like colour? For sure she would not have freely said the N-word in the presence of her bodyguard—who happens to be black? Considering that she’s a public figure, had she done that, I doubt Doctor Laura would’ve gotten away without causing a media stir that she wished to have avoided at this moment.
Doctor Laura has since apologized for her careless use of the N-word. I imagine that she’s had time to listen to the broadcast, to reflect and become more self-aware of her public role and admit that she has made a serious ethical error. I’m curious to know at which point Doctor Laura realized this. Was it the moment when she deviated from the topic and talked about President Obama and interjected that African-Americans voted him into power just because he had more melanin than his challenger? Was it when she accused Jade of being hypersensitive because Jade’s neighbour kept stepping on the line by obsessively singling out African-Americans in every conversation? Or was it when she interrupted Jade as she was about to mention that the N-word was thrown about in her house by family as though she was absent?
After having listened to the broadcast several times I’ve concluded that Jade had every right to be bothered by what went on in her household. Accusing Jade of being hypersensitive was insulting and demeaning because Jade stated that her dilemma had gone on for quite some time before she had reached the point of frustration.
As for bringing up President Obama, not only was it off topic but Doctor Laura herself was being racially insensitive when she said that blacks only voted for him because he was black. I’ll admit that if I was an American citizen, I would’ve voted for Obama, not because he’s black but because I feel that he’s more qualified to lead the country. Had it been Hillary Clinton versus Ms Condoleezza Rice or worse yet, Michael Steel, I would’ve voted for Mrs Clinton. Please note, that in the above reference to President Obama, I do not accuse Doctor Laura of being a racist, but that she was racially insensitive. Furthermore, the broadcast hasn’t convinced me that she is a racist, and I am saying this having repeated listened to it. Doctor Laura could have helped Jade had she listened to her more attentively!
Russell Brooks is the author of the upcoming thriller, Pandora's Succession, to be released in the Fall of 2010. Visit http://www.russellparkway.com/ for details.