Adrienne Speaks: Dr. Laura and the N-Word

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I had gone back and forth with myself about whether or not I wanted to weigh in on the Dr. Laura issue. After engaging in what seems to be endless debate on the issue, and after reading numerous comments on both sides of this mess, I knew I would have to speak up because not doing so would simply be, in my estimation, cowardly. I know there are both conservatives and liberals who have looked at this through the wrong lenses. I'm used to being under fire from liberals, but my take may tick off some conservatives as well. So be it. My perspective may not be popular with them, but one thing is true of me: I am nothing, if not principled. And principles do not rely on popularity. Principles rely on a commitment to doing the right thing. I called out a superior at work at the end of the last school year because I didn't like the manner in which he repeatedly addressed my colleagues. I took a teacher to task early in the same school year because during Banned Books Week she promoted a lie in the name of her political agenda. I held my ground when dealing with her, the principal, and then the superintendent. I knew the situation was sticky for me, but I had to. Why? Because it was the right thing to do. This sometimes leaves people looking at me like, "Girl, are you crazy?! Are you asking for trouble?!" Believe me, I don't want any trouble, but I also want to be able to look myself in the mirror in the morning and sleep peacefully at night, and for me that's directly linked to standing up for what I believe in. This brings Shakespeare's wise words to mind:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3

So what is my take on Dr. Laura? While I do not find her actions racist, they were unequivocally, undeniably wrong. They were racially insensitive and stupid. She was a complete jerk to the Black woman who called in to her radio show for advice about her husband's White friends being racist toward her. The doctor's initial use of the N-word was bad enough, but her continued use of the word, even when the woman called her on it, revealed an insensitivity that defies all common decency and sense. As for her being the target of a campaign to run her off the air, I say this: she got exactly what she deserved.

I understand Dr. Laura was making a point about the hypocrisy of Black people using the N-word. But her rant on the topic was ill-timed and had absolutely nothing to do with the reason the lady called in. Dr. Laura's handling of this was just plain wrong. She was complaining about people being hypersensitive about race, but she was the one being hypersensitive. She didn't even let the woman finish her point. She wanted to make a point of her own, and come hell or high water, she was going to make it--even injecting that Black people voted for Obama just because he was Black. Now, unless the woman is actually married to a 1/2 White man named Obama, or Obama was one of her husband's friends she was talking about, what does that have to do with anything?

I agree with Dr. Laura's point: I HATE when Blacks use the N-word. I'm constantly riding my students' tails about it. It's a slap in the face of those who fought and died to eradicate its use. I consider it the equivalent of saying, "F-You" to those who paid the ultimate price. It's just plain ignorant for Blacks to embrace it. But even that had nothing to do with the conversation. It's as if Dr. Laura was saying, "Hey, your people are using it, so why can't the White men in your livingroom?" And if she really doesn't know the answer to that question, she should've been calling in to somebody else's show for advice. Dr. Laura's desire to point out hypocrisy really only would have made sense if the woman, who is Black, had said she uses the word herself but doesn't want Whites to use it. That would be hypocrisy. The woman said no such thing. Dr. Laura had her own agenda and hung herself in the process. Then she made matters worse by basically saying if the woman had a problem with the N-word, she shouldn't have married a White man. Huh?! Are you stinkin' kiddin' me?!

Granted, she apologized, and I do believe in forgiveness. I make tons of mistakes, and I have learned to apologize quickly. However, her apology might have seemed more genuine if she didn't follow it up with playing the victim.

Dr. Laura talked about her First Amendment rights. While I respect the First Amendment, I have gone on record as saying there are some things people have the right to say or do but just shouldn't--out of common decency. I've been writing about the Ground Zero mosque. Americans know that Constitutionally Muslims have a right to build a mosque there. However, the argument has been that it's not the right thing to do given the circumstances. Does Dr. Laura have the Constitutional right to make a point, even one about how the N-word gets thrown around by Blacks? Sure--and I agree with her point. But the manner she used was simply not right. It was not decent. It was offensive. And it had nothing to do with the conversation. On another day, it would have been a great discussion to have, but not that day and not with that woman who was seeking advice about how to deal with being unfairly treated. Dr. Laura turned it on the lady without even paying attention to what was going on. With rights come responsiblilities, and common sense sometimes tells us not to exercise certain rights--or not to do so in certain ways--because compassion trumps doing so. It's that simple to me. Look, I'm not hypersensitive about race, and I'm not into political correctness, but I am into human decency and common sense--and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that Dr. Laura was wrong, and she has hell to pay because of it. Saying the word 11 times, even after the woman was clearly jarred by it? Unbelievable.

Now, how is this being handled on both sides of the political aisle? People on the Left want to paint Dr. Laura as racist because that's what they do with everyone on the Right. They hide in the shadows and wait for any opportunity to pounce, and if one doesn't surface, they invent it. So certainly no one can expect them to say what I said, that Dr. Laura was a jerk but not necessarily a racist. No one can expect them to try to take a look at the entirety of Dr. Laura's career, put her comments--as ridiculous as they were--in context, and be honest about them. The double standard on the Left is criminal. They have selective outrage about issues of race. Jesse Jackson uses the N-word, and they let it go. Harry Reid refers to President Obama's "negro dialect" and lumps all Hispanics together, and it's okay. But Dr. Laura? Oh no, she's on the Right. She's a racist. The Right has seen this double standard again and again, and they are tired of it. During this situation, they have been discussing it and the various and sundry examples of racebaiting so prevalent on the Left. It angers them and so they want to make that point in this situation. There's just one problem with that: this isn't about the Left this time. Dr. Laura's N-word tirade was not the Left's fault. Sorry, folks. She owns this one herself.

Just as I praise things that are respectable and honest, I want to be a person who calls out inexcusable behavior also--no matter what side of the aisle it's on. I won't sell out truth for partisanship. I have been frustrated with this whole thing. While I clearly see the Left's hypocrisy and glaring double standard, I can't use it as a reason not to speak out against what Dr. Laura did. This is what ticks me off so much about racebaiting games: when real issues of racial insensitivity surface, which this was, people feel compelled to defend because we are all so tired of the race games that others get away with. These games blur the lines and cause us to defend and excuse even when it's not deserved, to rush to the defense of people who should not be defended. We are so tired of the double standard and hypocrisy that it has blinded us to real issues that need to be condemned. This is one of the many dangers of playing games with race. I want no part of it.

Again, I don't deem Dr. Laura's comments racist, and she did not call anyone in particular the N-word. I agree that she had a valid point: nobody--Black, White, or otherwise--should be using it. However, she was a complete jerk to the woman, racially insensitive, and ignorant beyond words. And any argument from conservatives that the Left is also filled with insensitive, ignorant jerks is weak and really irrelevant in this case. We are all well-aware that many on the Left are clueless and morally corrupt. Those of us on the Right, on the other hand, are not them--and for good reasons. May we never allow the lines to be blurred to the point where we base our game plan on their example.


Anonymous,  August 23, 2010 at 3:11 AM  

Adrienne, thank you for voicing what so many have been feeling in their hearts. I appreciate that you have taken a stand and have called out, in your words, inexcusable behaviour.

It has been reported that Sarah Palin tweeted her support of Dr Laura. If it is true that she inferred that Dr Laura had been 'shackled', what is your opinion of Sarah Palin's tweets?

Once again, thanks for speaking out. As a South African, I'm sensitive about racial issues.

Anonymous,  August 23, 2010 at 6:33 AM  


You believe Dr L is not racist because she didn't direct the "N" word at anyone. Can you explain how this is not racist? Dr Laura to caller Jade: "If you're that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry out of your race."

Well, never mind, I read somewhere that Dr Laura is getting free of the shackles (does that ring a bell?) and reloading.

Funny you didn't address that...

Adrienne Ross August 23, 2010 at 10:46 AM  

Anonymous @3:11 a.m.,

Thank you for commenting.

My opinions about Dr. Laura's actions are exactly what I said: she got what she deserved.

Adrienne Ross August 23, 2010 at 10:53 AM  

Anonymous @6:33 a.m.,

I think I was rather clear. Reread the post again if you need to. Take your time.

Let me point something out: you are not interested in the facts, nor are you interested in the woman who was wronged. You exploit people and situations to advance your agenda, which is obvious by the end of your comment. You are part of the problem, part of why having sincere dialogue about race seems impossible. It's not a game.

J Sawyer August 23, 2010 at 12:51 PM  

I appreciate your candor on this issue. If a blogger isn't going to be direct, what's the point?

I don't quite agree, however.

I agree with you that Dr. Laura was wrong in her advice, totally wrong. But I disagree that that is the issue. That is not why she is off the air.

To me the issue is that she was censured for deciding to, with frankness, skip the euphemism when quoting and complaining about the *actual* use of it.

In other words, there is a big difference between *using* a word and *quoting* a word.

Yes, she could have shown appropriate deference by using the euphemism (n-word) but that doesn't change the fact that she was quoting the use of the word and not employing it herself.

At any rate, I appreciate your blog very much and your passionate advocacy of conservative and Christian principles.

Anonymous@6:33 am,  August 23, 2010 at 2:20 PM  


I don't have an agenda. You, on the other hand, chose to make your site into a shrine to Sarah Palin. I was surprised that you managed to write a whole post lambasting Dr Laura for being insensitive (but stating that she's NOT racist)and yet failed to address Sarah Palin's vigorous (but misguided) defense of this person.

Dr Laura's First Amendment rights are intact. (The government did not take her program off the air.) People chose to exercize their own right to criticize her. There are no shackles. Nothing that Sarah Palin tweeted or wrote in her Facebook page is true. Sarah Palin tried to turn Dr Laura into a victim in the same way she always portrays herself a victim.

Sarah Palin should have learned something about the First Amendment when her defense of Carrie Prejean proved to be misguided as well.

It's OK to be insensitive to gays, it's OK to be insensitive to black people, and if anybody dares to criticize these insensitive people are the critics putting them in shackles? Are they infringing anybody's First Amendment rights?

If anybody challenges Sarah Palin's positions, they are accused of having an agenda.

Sarah Palin was wrong.

How do you feel about that?

Adrienne Ross August 23, 2010 at 2:41 PM  

Anonymous@6:33 a.m.,

Indeed, you have an agenda. You are so focused on Gov. Palin that you cannot see the points in my post. Instead, you point out some of the things that I clearly said in the article. Your agenda is not about facts or supporting "Jade." You couldn't care less about either, or it appears that way. You care only about trying to blast Gov. Palin. Perhaps you should write her a letter telling her what, for some reason in a post about my take on Dr. Laura's comments, you chose to tell me.

Adrienne Ross August 23, 2010 at 8:04 PM  

J Sawyer,

I appreciate your comments, and I understand the point you want to make. However, I do not fully agree. While I am with you when you say that quoting a word is different from using a word, I think Dr. Laura had quoted the word the first three times she said it in succession. Eleven times,though, goes beyond quoting, particularly since when she recognized that "Jade" was clearly offended, she said something like, "Yes, I said it, and I'll say it again," then went on to say it several more times in a row. That was unnecessary, she was purposely provoking the woman at that point, and she was USING it to do so.

We may disagree on this point, but again, I appreciate your thoughts and the respect with which you made them.

God bless.

Anonymous,  August 23, 2010 at 9:52 PM  

I tried posting earlier and no luck. I don't match anything on the select profile option list. I just wanted to say your post was exactly how I feel. Thank you for your insight. Dr. Laura made a mistake. She generally is rude to her callers and I find her impossible to listen to. But I would never label her a racist. When will the N word go away? It's such a terrible word! Take care Adrienne, and have a wonderful school year.

Mary Ellen

Chris,  August 23, 2010 at 10:06 PM  

Wassup Adrienne I love your blog and respect so much of what u do. We need more voices like u in the realm of politics espeically for african americans, so that we can see and really hear the other side of the argument. May God continue to bless u, what u do, and those around u. Now to the issue.

First of all I understand where u are coming from but I disagree with u saying she was wrong. I will say she made her point the wrong way, but the point she made was not wrong to me. I listened to the entire clip and I wasn't offended at all. I understood everything that dr. laura said. I let some of my family hear the clip, & they're always ready to point out racism, and they were not offended at all either. Now to each is own but for me I find no fault other than the fact that she should have been more aware of the dangers of using that word becuz when u are conservative & republican people are just looking for a reason to call u a racist. I also want to point out that the lady "Jade" used the n-word in the same context as Dr.Laura. But there's no complaint about it. That goes back to the point dr. laura was trying to make. Also "Jade" said that whites are afraid of a black president, is that a racist statement? if so where is the anger. And lastly I totally agree that politicians should not play racial politics becuz it's a dangerous game that nobody wins at.

Kate,  August 24, 2010 at 5:47 AM  

I'm happy that you spoke out on the matter and although we're on opposite sides of the political spectrum usually, I'm in agreement with you on this matter. I listened to the tape twice and found no reason for Dr. Laura to bring up the "N" word in the manner she did and most especially, as frequently as she did. This is not a political matter nor do I think Dr. Laura's freedom of speech was affected in any way. She has the freedom to continue speaking on her show as long as radio stations are willing to air her. However, the public has the right to free speech in that they can let her sponsors know they will no longer purchase their products if they continue to buy air time on her show.

Her use of such an inflammatory word was totally uncalled for and did not relate to the woman's call in any manner I could see. While I agree that it should never be used by anyone of any race, why did she feel the need to even bring that up? I thought it was very insensitive to someone calling for guidance and served no purpose whatsoever, especially the repetition of it. Dr. Laura was wrong and unfortunately her apology rang hollow when she spoke of her 1st amend rights being taken away and that being the reason she was leaving the show.

Thank you for speaking up.

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