A Helpful Racial Etiquette Tip
For anyone asking the question "If black people can use the word 'n___er', why can't white people use it?", here's my answer:
Because when they do, they usually sound like complete fucking idiots.
Exhibit A: John Mayer.
Exhibit B: Dr. Laura Schlessinger.
I remember when I first heard her radio show back in the early 90's. I drew some amusement on the very first day I heard her because she reminded me of the "Man Of The People" episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation". You may remember how that was the episode where Counselor Troi turned evil and, at one point, was listening to a crew member confide her problems and responded by telling said crew member to stop her whining. Well, Dr. Laura's show was essentially the same thing in real life, except she dished out this advice virtually every day to virtually every caller, no matter what the caller's issue was. Once the unintentional hilarity wore off, it was simple to see that Dr. Laura and her show were completely useless. Amazingly enough, her radio show has lasted 30 years.
Last week, an African-American female caller named Jade asked Schlessinger's advice about her white husband's friends and family making racist comments and her husband ignoring them. In classic Dr. Laura fashion, not only did she provide no help whatsoever to the caller, but she began by suggesting the caller may be hypersensitive before she'd even heard her out.
And then she really went off the rails. In addition to providing a lame "white men can't jump" analogy, she made this dig out of nowhere: "Without giving much thought, a lot of blacks voted for Obama simply because he was half black. Didn't matter what he was gonna do in office. It was a black thing." Yeah, Doc, and absolutely no whites voted for McCain purely due to his race, right?
When Jade mentioned "the n-word", Schlesinger responded with "Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO and listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n****, n*****, n*****. I don't get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it's a horrible thing. But when black people say it, it's affectionate. It's very confusing."
The reason she finds that so confusing is that she appears to have a poor grasp of history. She seems to forget about the long tradition of people "without enough melanin" using that word when tormenting, bullying, beating, enslaving, discriminating against, and even killing others they deemed to have "too much melanin". Using that logic, the swastika symbol is just another cool design, too.
Also, I've heard and read about several African-Americans, particularly those over 30, who find it anything but "affectionate" when other black people say the "n-word".
And was she actually equating not being able to openly say "n___er" with the discrimination African-Americans and other minorities face? Is she actually feeling oppressed by this? As a fellow white person, all I can say is "This is the world's smallest violin." If that's the worst racial double-standard we as white people have to put up with, our race has gotten the better part of the deal.
The pathetic part is that her utterance of "n___er" 11 times was actually the least racially offensive part of her rant.
Here was another "gem" from that same segment:
"We've got a black man as president and we've got more complaining about racism than ever. I think that's hilarious."
Really? Racism magically disappeared after Obama was elected? If anything, it's gotten more overt. Look at all those angry Tea Partiers. Many of them sat silently or even cheered on as Bush and Cheney trampled all over the Constitution for 8 years, but as soon as a black man took office, they were up in arms screaming "I want my country back!!" as loud as they could. And do you remember any signs with Clinton or the two Bushes being portrayed as witch doctors? I didn't think so.
I've always hated what I felt was an unfair stereotype that most white people think racism has been completely eliminated. But hearing Dr. Laura and her ilk discuss the subject reminds me that some stereotypes contain a few kernels of fact.
And here was my personal fave:
"If you're that hypersensitive about color and don't have a sense of humor, don't marry outside of your race."
Personal disclosure time: I'm full-on Caucasian and my wife is half Mexican. She has a great sense of humor, and sometimes even pokes fun at some aspects of Mexican culture. And while I'm not exactly the most confrontational person on the planet, if someone made derogatory remarks about my wife's nationality, especially in her presence, you can bet your ass they'd hear about it from me. Also, you'll notice on this post how I leave the word "fucking" as is, but block out parts of "n___er". That's not an accident; that's how I regard the words in terms of relative offensiveness. Trust me, Jade wasn't hypersensitive at all.
Which is more than I can say for Dr. Laura. This week on Larry King she announced that she's quitting her talk show when her contract expires in December. The reason, in her own words:
“I made the decision not to do radio anymore,” Schlessinger said on CNN’s “Larry King Live.” “I want to regain my first amendment rights. I want to be able to say what is on my mind, in my heart, what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry.”
Here's the deal, Doc: You can't regain your first amendment rights because you never lost them in the first place. In fact, you currently have more of a forum for saying what's on your mind and in your heart than most Americans do, even if it's only helpful and useful in your own mind. But if you want to say inflammatory comments in public without anybody getting angry, might I suggest another venue?
How about Fantasyland?