Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s interaction with Jade, a self-identified “black” caller to her popular conservative radio show, The Dr. Laura Program, is causing quite a stir. During the exchange, Jade seeks Dr. Laura’s advice on how to deal with the increasingly racially insensitive comments and behavior from her white husband’s family and friends, including use of the n-word. Dr. Laura, citing its liberal use by black comedians on HBO, herself used the n-word a reported eleven times.
Although Dr. Laura’s use of the n-word has received the bulk of the coverage, the real interest rests in the observations that Jade and Dr. Laura shared regarding the nation’s racial temperature, especially since the election of Barack Obama Since the election, Jade noted, “racism has come to another level that’s unacceptable.” She is not alone in her observation, at least not within the black community.
Many African-Americans have either directly witnessed or heard family members and friends mention how emboldened some of their white co-workers have become in expressing their racist views since Obama’s election. The rationale seems to be that, since there’s a black man leading the nation, it’s okay to say almost anything. On black-oriented radio shows like The Tom Joyner Morning Show and Rev. Al Sharpton’s Keeping It Real, African-American callers feel the disrespect President Obama receives from the Tea Party, conservatives in Congress and on the Internet is tied to his race and not his politics.
WATCH theGRIO’S DAVID WILSON ON THE DR. LAURA CONTROVESY:
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If you listen to some conservative torchbearers, don’t be surprised to hear racially insensitive comments, though maybe not the outright use of the n-word on a consistent basis. That’s precisely why most of these shows continue to fly under the mainstream radar. As long as the hosts and callers refrain from using words that we historically associate with racism and racial insensitivity, they are free to espouse whatever they want.
“We’ve got a black man as president, and we have more complaining about racism than ever. I mean, I think that’s hilarious,” Dr. Laura told Jade. And that’s unfortunately how she and many other white people in this country feel. Because Obama was elected into office, racism was supposed to magically disappear. If a pundit of any race expresses that unemployment among African-Americans is higher than among the white population, then these shows and their callers feel free to counter that the disparity exists because blacks don’t want to work. Mention the wealth disparity and immediately the president and the first lady are brought up as examples to dismiss the issue. Because one black person has defied the odds, everything is suddenly alright in the United States.
When Dr. Laura pointed out to Jade that Obama became president because white people also voted for him, Jade rightfully noted that those white people were overwhelmingly young. “It wasn’t the older white people who did it,” she said. She also said that “there [are] more white people afraid of a black man taking over the nation.”
Sadly, that’s what we’ve seen. Obama isn’t perfect but can the man catch a break? If the economy is improving, it’s not because of anything he’s done. If it’s failing, it has absolutely nothing to do with the Republican leadership that preceded him. Forget that the economy collapsed before he took office. Some can argue that this “he can do no right” sentiment is not a reflection of race but many of us aren’t buying it.
To be fair, the Obama administration is not blameless either. In many ways, they’ve fed into a “don’t ask, don’t tell” racial policy where by adopting the attitude that, if race is never mentioned, it will just magically go away. The truth of the matter is that debate about the use of the n-word obscure the real issue. Its use is not the core of the problem. Until we began to address institutionalized racism and attitudes possessed by Dr. Laura, her colleagues and the millions that follow them, we will not progress.
It’s unfortunate that it takes the n-word to shake us out of our race-denying comas but, America, we have a problem, and it didn’t begin when Barack Obama became president.