Can we talk about race?

Radio show host's entanglement with 'N' word shows difficulty of honest debate

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Bigfoot. The Loch Ness Monster. The Honest Dialogue About Race.

Radio talk show host Laura Schlessinger plans to give up her radio show at the end of the year.  FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Radio talk show host Laura Schlessinger plans to give up her radio show at the end of the year.

Don't waste your time looking for any of them anytime soon.

This country periodically scours the land for that mythical beast no one has yet described, the Honest Dialogue About Race. It's usually lip service, though, normally coming after someone has lost a job or committed professional suicide.

Enter Dr. Laura, who appears to have done the latter.

Now, if we ever do bag that legendary Honest Dialogue About Race, we certainly don't want the likes of Laura Schlessinger leading it. She tends to cross the line from harsh to abusive. Her knee jerks so quickly you can hear the rush of wind against the microphone. Not what you need, leading a discussion on such a delicate topic.

But her odd and abrupt announcement Tuesday night that she's quitting her nationally syndicated advice show on radio -- over the reaction to her using the "N" word with a caller -- was another one of those "Gee, if only we could have an honest dialogue about race" moments.

Schlessinger -- who earned the title "Dr." with a degree in physiology, not mental health -- used the "N" word to illustrate how often it's used in the black media. The problem is twofold: One, she said it over and over and over, which even she acknowledges was a mistake; two, she's white -- and the conventional wisdom today is that white people should never use the word.

The irony, of course, is that she's absolutely right: The word is ubiquitous in black culture, including music and comedy and, in many instances, everyday conversation. So yes, there is a double standard.

On some level, that double standard is actually quite understandable: The word was used as a contemptible, dispiriting cudgel for so long; the feeling among some is that those who created and wielded the word as a weapon have lost the right to use it. In truth, most of us believe no one should use the word.

But the effect of that perceived double standard is an uneven playing field upon which it's difficult to see eye to eye.

It's imperative we don't give up. Here's hoping we get that honest dialogue someday. A good start would be to listen to each other more than we speak.

Schlessinger claims she's quitting her radio show at the end of the year to "regain my First Amendment rights.

"I want to be able to say what's on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry or some special-interest group deciding this is a time to silence a voice of dissent," she said on CNN's Larry King Live .

Schlessinger has a nationally syndicated show. She's hardly the poster child for regaining free-speech rights. But her awkward situation does accentuate the fact that it's awfully difficult to have an honest dialogue when you can get your head bitten off for saying the wrong thing -- without even trying.

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southernguy08
499
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southernguy08 08/20/10 - 09:25 am
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I wonder if anybody remembers
Unpublished

I wonder if anybody remembers a "man of color" by the name of Jesse Jackson referring to Jews as "hymies," and NYC as "hymietown" a few years ago?

TheFederalist
1
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TheFederalist 08/20/10 - 09:32 am
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Eel, shame on you. That

Eel, shame on you. That comparison is not fair, and you know it. Trying to draw an analogy between religion and race, and then using sensitivity as the point is both dishonest, and an enormous stretch.

TheFederalist
1
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TheFederalist 08/20/10 - 09:36 am
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Makes no difference the

Makes no difference the details, or the use of the magical, all encompassing word, "context", as guilt is instant and there are always consequences. Every single time a person of non-color utters the dreaded word that is used by persons of color daily, in their comedy, music, movies, on the street, in conversation, etc, it always provokes the same result. Outrage by one side, and tiresome indignation by the other, immediately after the initial rush of, "Oh No, we go again"! Does anyone really believe that if we could only somehow all sit down together and have this hypothetical "Honest Dialogue About Race", that suddenly, after some 200+ years of being used by both sides as a club to beat the other, or an excuse to claim victimization, that we can somehow finally blend together, all in one accord? I think not, and the best that we can possibly do, is to be totally honest for once.  Stop beating this dead horse, Please. Bury it, and try as hard as we can not to keep digging it up again, whenever a person of non-color makes this same dreadful mistake.

dichotomy
32121
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dichotomy 08/20/10 - 09:37 am
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Take all of the emotion out

Take all of the emotion out of it and all this was a person who said something that may have been insensitive to some but merely spoke the truth. And THAT is why you will never have a dialogue in this country about race and racism. Nobody, on either side, wants to hear the truth.

justthefacts
21392
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justthefacts 08/20/10 - 09:38 am
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EEL, I am surprised that you,

EEL, I am surprised that you, of all people, would use such generalizations. The feelings regarding the Ground Zero Mosque and the race issue are not neatly separated by political views.

effete elitist liberal
3112
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effete elitist liberal 08/20/10 - 09:40 am
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Yes, indeed, context IS

Yes, indeed, context IS everything. Dr. Laura's reference to black comics using the "N" word in front of audiences has absolutely nothing to do with the situation on her radio show. Audiences mostly black, attend certain comedy shows knowing full well that some of the performers they are paying to hear are going to use crude comedic language. They approve that language when they buy tickets. In this sort of comedy show, there is a tacit consent between the performers and the audience that the "normal" rules of propriety and good taste will be set aside. The context of the Dr. Laura show was TOTALLY different. The caller to the Dr. L show told the host she felt uncomfortable when her husband's white friends used racially charged language in front of her. She obviously had not asked for it; this was not a forum in which the black woman and her husband's white friends had any unspoken agreement that crude racial language was OK, that it was just part of a comedy show acknowledged by all parties. That Dr. L., in effect, told her caller she was too sensitive and should just get over it, was crude, self-serving, and, yes, grossly insensitive.

effete elitist liberal
3112
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effete elitist liberal 08/20/10 - 09:51 am
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justthefacts: I made an

justthefacts: I made an analogy, not a "generalization."

TheFed: I really don't understand your assertion that my analogy was "unfair," and I assure you that I don't "know it." I stand by my claim that opponents of the mosque argue the NYC Muslims should be "sensitive" to the feelings of those for whom the memories of 9/11 are still painful, and should therefore voluntarily not exercise their First Amendment Right. How is this untrue? And how is it untrue that Dr. L seems to believe she should be able to exercise her First Amendment Rights with little or no regard for the sensitivities of others?

justthefacts
21392
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justthefacts 08/20/10 - 09:53 am
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"conservatives argue......".

"conservatives argue......". Generalization. I don't.

Chillen
17
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Chillen 08/20/10 - 09:57 am
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EEL. Comparing "hurt

EEL. Comparing "hurt feelings" to the murder of thousands of American citizens is hardly on the same level. What an apples to oranges comparison.

follower
59
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follower 08/20/10 - 10:46 am
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Reading the paper this

Reading the paper this morning before coming to the office, I imagined the post on this subject would be just as they are. A sit down between the citizens of this country is impossible in realistic terms. Opinions and predjudice will always exist, no matter the efforts of the media, neighborhoods, and even churches.

Instead of a celebration of diversity, we're suspect of anyone that doens't look like us or think like us.

Assault of the bodily type is considered violence that is not tolerated in society, with incarceration a possibility. We consider it the worst type of violence when we attack physically. But in reality, violence to someone's sacred being causes much more harm. In most cases, physical wounds would heal. But forever etched into ones memory is the verbal violence that attacks someones sacred being.

We should all choose our words carefully. To do so not only shows respect to another, but character in ourselves.

dcreader
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dcreader 08/20/10 - 11:22 am
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The First Amendment to the

The First Amendment to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. "

Notice that it starts with "Congress shall make no law...". Nobody ever abridged Dr. Laura's First Amendment rights -- or Sarah Palin's, for that matter -- by criticizing her. She's free to say what she wants. She quit her show of her own volition. And furthermore, no one has a "right" to a show.

Finally, when Palin and Dr. Laura whine about their First Amendment rights being abridged, they have it precisely backwards. In other words, the First Amendment protects the freedom of the press that allows for such criticism. Congress shall make no law, and indeed, Congress did not.

I'm so tired of the Constitution being perverted by people who clearly didn't pay any attention in 10th-grade Civics class.

So crates
0
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So crates 08/20/10 - 11:31 am
0
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Its good manners or good

Its good manners or good diplomacy to speak to people how they want to be spoken to. I do think that the emphasis on this single word is outrageously overdone, but it is what is.

So crates
0
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So crates 08/20/10 - 11:32 am
0
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Its good manners or good

Its good manners or good diplomacy to speak to people how they want to be spoken to. I do think that the emphasis on this single word is outrageously overdone, but it is what is.

NotReallyGA
0
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NotReallyGA 08/20/10 - 11:35 am
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Well hats off to Palin for

Well hats off to Palin for encouraging her to use it more.

double_standard
166
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double_standard 08/20/10 - 11:37 am
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Follower good comment. I

Follower good comment. I notice while reading the comments on the judge overstreet's story no one used the word thug. Is that the new word used to describe minorities that commit crimes?

Rhetor
1003
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Rhetor 08/20/10 - 11:46 am
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IMHO, no one should use

IMHO, no one should use offensive terms about anybody, including themselves, but it is wrong to say that there is a double standard.

dcreader
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dcreader 08/20/10 - 11:41 am
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@NotReally: Dr. Laura has all

@NotReally: Dr. Laura has all along been exercising her First Amendment rights, as has Sarah Palin. She cannot exercise them "more," as you suggest, for Congress has passed no law to abridge them. That's what the Constitution protects. Freedom of the press FROM the government.

TheFederalist
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TheFederalist 08/20/10 - 11:57 am
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That, eel, is exactly my

That, eel, is exactly my point. Thank you. You have provided a perfect example that illustrates my point exactly. Despite the fact that Dr. L has apologized. Despite the fact that she has admitted her mistake and said that what she did was wrong and inappropriate. Despite the fact that she has announced that she will stop broadcasting her radio show. Yet you still felt the need to jump up on your moral pedestal and rant about the injustice, the pain, the outrage of her actions. About context. About the folly of trying to defend the right of a person of non-color who dares to utter the dreaded word, even when trying to make a philosophical point, and not to try and cause harm. The same word heard on TV, radio, conversations, and on the street daily. Thank you eel, for making my point that there is absolutely nothing to be gained from discussing this further. Dr. L is now the very embodiment of evil to persons of color. To persons of non-color, she is a person that has been unjustly punished for daring to attempt to open this discussion, for even uttering the dreaded word, even though her intention was clearly not to injure the other. No amount of discussion will change these diametrically opposed viewpoints as you may believe that no punishment is sufficient, the other side may believe that no punishment is warranted. IMHO, no amount of time will close this gap, this massive cultural and ethnic divide, and further debate is futile. We need to all calm down, curb our passions about racial/reverse racial injustice, try to put this behind us the best we can, stop pointing fingers, and hope that hurt feelings will subside, at least until the next time.

toppergem
125
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toppergem 08/20/10 - 11:57 am
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@seenitB4...not every Black

@seenitB4...not every Black person uses the N-word any more than all whites use ugly, hateful words to describe their race. I wish people would stop trying to dump all Black people in the same old basket. We re individuals and we do, think and say things very differently...we are not made out of some cookie cutter mold.

keylime05
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keylime05 08/20/10 - 12:06 pm
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@toppergem, I agree. This

@toppergem, I agree. This reminds me of the time a classmate called me the "N" word. My father and I took the issue to the principal and he basically said that I overreacted because we were both black and he did not see what the "big deal" was because black people call each other that all the time. The big deal was that I was called a racial slur in class by a person in front of our peers. I felt totally and completely disrespected and would have felt the same way had a person of another race called me that. Just because some people choose to try to "mainstream" the "N" word does not mean that it is accepted across the board by black people. My parents never used those words nor did they tolerate it in our musical choices, on television, etc.

faithson
5136
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faithson 08/20/10 - 12:08 pm
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Dr. Laura's final quip on air

Dr. Laura's final quip on air was her undoing. She suggested that because our nation elected a black man all black people should now be 'satisfied' and the sensitivity that they express should be tempered. NOW THERE IS A PERSON WITH AN ATTITUDE... Glad all those women who fought for equal rights didn't give up just because the 'guys' allowed them the rite to vote.

seenitB4
85643
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seenitB4 08/20/10 - 12:15 pm
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topper...Thankfully we are

topper...Thankfully we are all different....If you read my post you won't see that I said ALL use the words...I hear it from the radio programs..the black comedians.....the blasting cars...when some group of kids get together & they think it's cool....Let's make it a NO NO for everyone ..how about it.
Have a great day....bbl

burninater
9397
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burninater 08/20/10 - 12:40 pm
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Dr. Laura, when the going

Dr. Laura, when the going gets tough, the tough don't quit. I bet y'all a Carolina's dinner that she plans to join the bloviation gravy train like other public figures that resigned when they got tired of their real jobs.

ameliaf
0
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ameliaf 08/20/10 - 12:59 pm
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"Now, if we ever do bag that

"Now, if we ever do bag that legendary Honest Dialogue About Race, we certainly don't want the likes of Laura Schlessinger leading it. She tends to cross the line from harsh to abusive."

Indeed, and yes, she does.

So, if a dialogue is to be started, lets start with something other than the fact that blacks use the "N" word among themselves and don't want whites using it. It is not as if that were the most important thing that needed to be talked about: the perspective of the white community that they are somehow harmed by that restriction.

But, that is Dr. Laura for you.

TheFederalist
1
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TheFederalist 08/20/10 - 01:07 pm
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More importantly, I submit

More importantly, I submit that the question posed by the ACES has been answered. Clearly the answer to the question, "Can we talk about race?", imho, is a resounding No.

Maybe someday in the distant future, but sadly, until then, no.

effete elitist liberal
3112
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effete elitist liberal 08/20/10 - 01:12 pm
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TheFed: "...there is

TheFed: "...there is absolutely nothing to be gained from discussing this further" !! (Exclamation points added.) Well I guess that settles that!
The ol' testosterone levels running a bit high today, The Fed?

Tigger_The_Tiger
0
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Tigger_The_Tiger 08/20/10 - 01:15 pm
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psychologyseniorusc...."Oh,

psychologyseniorusc...."Oh, and i'm gay and black, so don't call me a bigot."

Why the heck not? Are you saying you can't be a bigot if you are gay and black?

c.james
0
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c.james 08/20/10 - 01:22 pm
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Would this be the same as

Would this be the same as movies made by Black entertainers for instance like Keenen Ivory Wayans movie “White Chicks”, I wonder if they plan to make a sequel called Black Chicks? Or will there be a sequel coming called “Black Men Can’t Swim” to balance the infamous movie with Wesley “White men can’t Jump”? See my point is that we should lead by example. If the Black man/women want the “N” word to be gone from our vocabulary then they need to stop indoctrinating our children over the airwaves with Rap garbage lyrics that uses the N Word constantly. I hear our youth listening to these vulgar lyrics and I do mean vulgar everyday. Just Google the lyrics for 50 cent, little Kim, Outcast etc etc…. just pick a rap group and as a parent you’ll cringe with disgust at the amount of pure filth related to ethnic slurs, cop killings and derogatory, insensitive attitudes towards women in general calling them ho’s and describing in vivid detail sexual acts in their music. This is what our kids are listening today. Where is the outrage? Where are the proponents of cleaning up this garbage and stopping the mantra of chant related the N Word and degradation of women in their songs. White kids are buying their music too and when your windows vibrate next time the base tube is blasting while you’re at a stop light next to one of their cars just take your hands off your ears and listen to what our kids are playing on their MP3s. I say clean up your own house first and stop selling this garbage to our kids and maybe the N Word will disappear from our vocabulary Bro.

ameliaf
0
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ameliaf 08/20/10 - 01:32 pm
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c.james: "See my point is

c.james: "See my point is that we should lead by example."

I suppose the "we" stands for "whites". And, my, my, how morally superior it is for all the "we" to "lead by example."

I suppose your use of "Bro" is sarcasm, since you are not one of "them."

Tigger_The_Tiger
0
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Tigger_The_Tiger 08/20/10 - 01:36 pm
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You can tell c.james's race

You can tell c.james's race by reading? WOW!

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