As a Black woman I cannot emphasize enough how painful the word nigger is. It exists only to harm Blacks and no matter the context it is said in by a White person it is always painful. 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. Recently Dr. Laura decided to unleash her inner bigot (inner because it is the soundtrack of the mind that many silence today) live on air”. Those of you who think that are elevated because you only think racist thoughts and avoid uttering racist statements are really no better.
A young Black woman in an inter-racial relationship calls to find out what to do because her husband is ignoring the racist commentary that she is subjected to. Did she ever pick the wrong person to ask. Dr. Laura tells her that she is being to sensitive and has a chip on her shoulder. Complains that Blacks have not right to be upset about the word nigger because Black comedians on HBO use the word. Tells her she does not know why Blacks are so focused on race they did after all get a Black president after mindlessly voting for him. This was compounded by the fact that she has a Black friend and so she couldn’t possibly be racist.
“Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO and listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n****, n*****, n*****. 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.”
CALLER: Is it OK to say that word? Is it ever OK to say that word?
DR. LAURA: It depends how it’s said. Black guys talking to each other seem to think it’s ok.
CALLER: But you’re not black, they’re not black, my husband is white.
DR. LAURA: Oh, I see, so a word is restricted to race. Got it. Can’t do much about that.
CALLER: I can’t believe someone like you is on the radio spewing out the n-word, and I hope everybody heard it.
DR. LAURA: I didn’t spew out the n-word!
CALLER: You said “nigger, nigger, nigger,” and I hope everybody heard it.
DR. LAURA: Yes they did, and I’ll say it again: nigger, nigger, nigger is what you hear on HBO.
DR. LAURA: Why don’t you let me finish a sentence? Don’t take things out of context. Don’t NAACP me, leave them in context.
Dr. Laura did have one part bit of advice. “”If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry outside of your race,” she said after hanging up on the caller.
I suppose it momentarily concerned Dr. Laura that she had let down her filter because she released the following apology:
“Yesterday, I did the wrong thing,” she said. “I didn’t intend to hurt people, but I did. And that makes it the wrong thing to have done. I was attempting to make a philosophical point, and I articulated the “n” word all the way out – more than one time. And that was wrong. I’ll say it again – that was wrong.”
Schlessinger said she “was so upset [she] could not finish the show.”
“I pulled myself off the air at the end of the hour,” she said. “I had to finish the hour, because 20 minutes of dead air doesn’t work. I am very sorry. And it just won’t happen again.”
So poor Schlessinger was so upset that she could not finish her show. I suppose we are expected to feel sympathy for that. Her apology clearly proves that she really did not understand why what she did was wrong. I was not only her repeated use of the word nigger. It was her absolutely false belief that she as a White woman could decide what is and is not racist. I suppose having a PhD has led her to believe she is an expert in all things — but she is clearly not an expert in Black people or race relations.
The stories about the incident at Huffpo and Gawker both focus on the word nigger because that has come to be synonymous with racism. Socially we believe big displays like the N word or burning crosses signify racism, but in truth, racist behavior and or language is far more pervasive than that. Today racism is covert and it comes in forms like telling Black people that they are being to sensitive, claiming Black friends to disassociate oneself from racist actions, using Obama as a symbol of how anti-racist the United States has become — all of which are things that Dr. Laura said, and yet she is only apologizing for the word nigger. Avoiding the obvious does not mean that you are not racist.
Because of Dr. Laura’s history, there will be those that are tempted to dismiss this as just another bit of inane bit of ranting but that would be a mistake. Dr. Laura may have a history of verbally assaulting marginalized bodies; however, her comments are extremely representative of the kind of racism that Blacks are subjected to daily. Even as she was berating this woman many only heard the N word and agreed with much of what Dr. Laura had to say, because it affirmed White supremacy. Blacks can talk about race, and our experiences living in a White supremacist state, but until White people decide to actually listen, they will continue to participate in covert acts of racism firm in the false belief that they are not being racist. Today it is not the man in White sheets that we have to fear but the man or woman that comes to us as educated, well dressed and dripping in privilege and power.