By DeWayne Wickham
I’m going to talk about the flap over Laura Schlessinger’s use of the n-word without once calling her the r-word.
The nationally-syndicated radio talk show host said the n-word 11 times during a recent program in response to a black woman who called in to complain about the racially-tinged things some of her white husband’s friends say around her.
The caller was looking for relationship advice. What she got from Schlessinger was a cacophony of the word many blacks consider a hate-filled pejorative, especially when used by whites. Schlessinger rattled off the n-word easily in suggesting blacks are schizophrenic when it comes to its use.
“Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is nigger, nigger, nigger,” she said. “I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing; but when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing.”
But to an advice expert that shouldn’t be any more confusing than women who recoil when a man calls them the b-word; but laugh it off when a girlfriend does the same thing. Or, more confusing than the outrage gays show when a heterosexual calls them the f-word; but treats it as a term of endearment when it comes from another homosexual.
Anyone smarter than a nitwit understands that words can take on different a meaning, depending on who uses them. But Schlessinger’s failure to acknowledge what most first-year psychology majors understand isn’t what makes me think she’s got some bigotry coursing through her veins. It is what followed her n-word rant.
“If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race,” Schlessinger said. That sounds to me like the good doctor is saying the caller should just grin and bear it when her white husband’s friends start talking like they’re at a Ku Klux Klan coffee klatch.
It is Schlessinger’s insinuation that blacks who spend time in the company of whites should expect to be exposed to the racial stereotyping the caller complained about that rubs me raw. And it is Schlessinger’s stereotyping of blacks that makes her vulnerable to a charge of racial prejudice.
Racism is a contorted value system that increasingly takes the form of something far less menacing, like advice from a radio talk show host. It can lurk just beneath the surface when someone says, as Schlessinger did: “a lot of blacks voted for Obama simply ‘cause he was half-black. Didn’t matter what he was gonna do in office, it was a black thing. You gotta know that. That’s not a surprise.”
It is to me.
In every presidential election since 1964, “a lot of blacks” – in fact, the overwhelming majority –voted for the Democratic Party’s candidate. And in 11 of those 12 contests that person was white. So to say blacks voted in great numbers for Obama simply because he is black is not only factually wrong, it’s a crass, racial stereotype.
Even crasser is Schlessinger’s attempt to make herself the victim of her n-word rant. She’ll give up her show in December so she will be free to say what’s on her mind and in her heart, Schlessinger told CNN’s Larry King.
I think that’s exactly what she did when she offered that black caller a piece of her twisted mind.