By Scott Tibbs, August 18, 2010
Last week, "Dr. Laura" Schlessinger took a call from a black woman (Jade) who is concerned because her husband's friends make racist comments and use racial slurs. The point I expected Schlessinger to make is that Jade married a fool. A man would not tolerate this type of behavior. Jade almost certainly knew her husband's character, and who he keeps as friends, well before she married him. If Jade were wise, a condition of dating him (much less marrying him) would be for him to force his friends to choose between racist language and his friendship.
Schlessinger complains that Jade is being hypersensitive, and that black comedians say "n****r" all the time. While her second point is true, the context of the word matters. When used by blacks, it is not intended to be a racial slur. That is entirely different from using "n****r" to demean and dehumanize blacks. When used in this way, the "n****r" isn't a man or a woman, but an object of derision.
Schlessinger should have known better than to start spouting "n****r n****r n****r" on the air, especially using it eleven times. Again, what matters is context. "N****r" is a racially charged word that many people find extremely offensive, and her use of it was inartful at best.
The reason it was wrong is because Jade's husband was acting like a little boy and not standing up for his wife. In the face of outright racism and an immature "husband" who refuses to put a stop to it, Jade's anger was more than justified. Schlessinger's insensitivity and politicization of an offensive term was completely inappropriate.
Schlessinger "apologized" on the air and on her blog, where she said: "I didnít intend to hurt people, but I did. And that makes it the wrong thing to have done."
This is what drives me crazy about modern society. No, Mrs. Schlessinger. It isn't wrong because you hurt someone's feelings. It was either wrong or it was not - and in this context, it was wrong. Some things are wrong even if you do not hurt another person's feelings. Sometimes, you need to hurt someone's feelings. A parent who disciplines a child for punching a sibling intentionally hurts the child's feelings, but that is necessary and proper.
Now, we have to be careful about a cultural prohibition on the use of the word "nigger." Up until this point, I have "bleeped" it in this post because of the context. But it is important to note distinctions between legitimate discussions of a word and its proper use, as opposed to using the word as a means to deride and dehumanize someone. We shouldn't get so deep into political correctness that we feminize our discourse.
Schlessinger, meanwhile, should apologize - for real this time.