The beauty of having your own radio or TV show or column is that you have a wonderful opportunity to address many of the significant issues of the day by using the enormous platform that has been bestowed upon you.
That’s why when I read — and then heard — the stunning, childish and venomous discussion Dr. Laura Schlessinger had with one of her callers, it was clear to me that the firebrand radio talk show host blew a perfect shot at using a discussion around race, which could have really helped a lot of people.
Dr. Laura is getting ripped, and rightfully so, for her continuous use of the N-word during a discussion this week with a black female caller. Instead of paying attention and listening to the woman’s genuine concerns about the racist comments made by the friends and family members of her white husband, Dr. Laura made her out to be the villain.
It was clear that Dr. Laura has a beef of her own when it comes to black folks being too sensitive about matters of race, and that’s why she tried to use the example of black comedians using the N-word to buttress her position that the woman should really pipe down and not be so sensitive about such issues. She could have easily pivoted from the caller’s question to this issue, but she didn’t and instead chose to dig herself deeper and deeper into the racial abyss.
First, Dr. Laura needs to step back and realize that, yes, black comedians use the N-word on stage, and it’s something that I have protested and called for all African-Americans to stop using. But let’s be honest, comedians of all ethnic groups do all kinds of crazy stuff on stage — dissing African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, whites, men, women, gays, Jews, the mentally challenged, you name it. So, when the B-word, C-word or F-word is used on stage, are we to say that is perfectly acceptable language offstage?
Dr. Laura also fails at political analysis by asserting that a lot of black folks voted for President Barack Obama because he’s half-black. Should someone remind her that Obama got 95 percent of the black vote. Pretty pale Democrats like Al Gore and Bill Clinton received between 90 percent and 92 percent of the black vote. Dr. Laura, that’s largely a Democratic thing; it’s not necessarily a black thing.
Yet as I listened to the caller, and as Dr. Laura continued haranguing her, it was clear that Dr. Laura — who has made millions dispensing advice on the radio — needs to have someone sit her down and explain how she not only screwed up by tossing out the N-word repeatedly, but she also had a chance to be a part of what many considered to be essential: a national discussion on race.
The caller was disturbed about those in her husband’s inner circle driving their racial stereotypes, as well as making racial comments in front of her.
When I keep hearing folks talk about the need for a national conversation about race, it’s not all about President Obama leading it. If we are to conquer our racial demons, it’s necessary for the caller’s white husband to be willing to look his friends and family members in the eye and say, “Your comments are insulting to my wife and I want you to stop. Now!”
The real problem many of us have when confronting racial matters is that we are too unwilling to challenge those closest to us. No child wants to enter into a verbal battle with his or her mother or father who could hold racist views or accept racial stereotypes. But none of us can be silent when that happens. It was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Do you recall the restaurant scene in the movie, “The Blind Side,” where the “friends” of Sandra Bullock were making off-handed racial comments? When she had enough of their mess, she made clear that she would be dining with others. She refused to allow their racial hang-ups to stain her. Bullock could have easily kept the friendship intact by saying nothing and moving on. But she chose a different path.
Dr. Laura had the same opportunity. She could have listened to the woman and dispensed some genuine advice that might have helped the caller and her listening audience. Instead, she grabbed the chip on her shoulder that revealed to us that she is clearly annoyed when some blacks complain about racism. She compounded that by telling the woman she should never have married outside of her race if she couldn’t stand racial humor. Folks, that’s NOT how to do it.
Dr. Laura has apologized, but that hasn’t stopped folks like Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, from calling on The Talk Radio Network to drop her syndicated show.
If we truly want folks to “get over it” — that’s what Dr. Laura essentially told this black woman to do when it came to racism — it is going to take us reforming the bigots, and not admonishing the offended. I fundamentally believe we can get people to see their racial bigotry or insensitive views and offer them a pathway toward healing, but that can only happen when we’re willing to challenge one another — friend or foe — as well as look into the mirror and confront our own deeply embedded views on race.
Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN analyst and the author of the forthcoming book “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as originally reported by Roland S. Martin.” Please visit his website at www.RolandSMartin.com. To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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