Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What Was Dr. Laura Thinking?

SKEPTIC: Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a prominent, socially conservative talk-show host who has been doling out advice to women about their relationships for the last 3 decades. She got in big trouble recently when she went nuts and used the n-word 11 times in a 5-minute span (CLICK HERE TO LISTEN) - with many people observing that that was the LEAST offensive part of her rant. It was her whole tone that peeled back the onion and revealed the ugly racism residing in her heart. So she made a big apology, and then surprised everyone by telling Larry King that she was quitting her radio show when her contract expires in December, because she wanted to "get back her free speech rights," which made no sense to anyone (except Sarah Palin, of course, who felt compelled to defend her).

Before we start, maybe we should establish a working definition for racism.

PREACHER: According to my definition of "racist" one needs to believe and promote the idea that different skin color denotes inferiority. Some have in the past even suggested that certain "races" are not as far along on the evolutionary scale and still would be technically animals, hence not too long ago certain humans were actually put on dislay in zoo cages by the leading evolutionists of the day. I don't think Dr. Laura really believes that blacks are inferior, she was just frustrated with how some blacks persist in making themselves victims of the rest of society. Too bad she let out her frustration on that particular caller.

SKEPTIC: I would broaden the definition of racism to include language or behavior that shows disrespect for someone based on their race. Such disrespect could certainly stem from feeling that the person is inferior, but not necessarily so. I think Dr. Laura showed a tremendous amount of disrespect in her approach to the caller. 

So would you like to join Sarah Palin in defending Dr. Laura, or are we both on the same page in thinking that Dr. Laura is a clueless racist who deserves all the criticism she's received?

PREACHER: I don't really feel like defending her, but I wouldn't call her a clueless racist either.  It seems to me that she got herself into a pickle with the caller who was already carrying a chip on her shoulder. Having grown up in a country where my skin color was a novelty, I can identify with the caller. But, I can agree with much of what Dr. Laura said, too. I do think both of them let their emotions go beyond what is cordial. I find it interesting that you either want me to be a racist bigoted conservative or a bleeding heart liberal.  Sorry, I am neither.

SKEPTIC: No, I don't want you to be either a "racist bigoted conservative or a bleeding heart conservative." I was just trying to get a read on where you stood, and now I know.

How on earth do you perceive the caller to have a chip on her shoulder? That's what Dr. Laura accused her of, too, and it's ludicrous. She called to get some advice for a very specific problem - she was offended by what she perceived to be racist behavior on the part of her husband's friends, and she wanted to know how she should deal with it. But the good doctor had no interest in helping her with her problem - she was more interested in showing her ignorance by insisting that the caller was being "hypersensitive." (Oh, you silly black people - a black man is president now, so just shut up and stop your complaining!)

PREACHER: What you say about their interaction is precisely why I wouldn't defend Dr. Laura. I think she put her foot in her mouth big time. She should have been more sensitive to the caller, after all the caller was asking for help with a problem in reference to skin color. If Dr. Laura had spent some time in a place where she was the minority skin color she may have been more sensitive to the caller, but she probably never had that experience.  However, to assume that Dr. Laura is a racist because of her remarks is like trying to read her mind. Her point, well made, is that sometimes blacks have been hypersensitive towards comments made by whites that were never intended as racial slurs. That was the issue that ticked Dr. Laura off.  My answer to the caller would have been: Yes, I understand that it is hard to take.  I have been the minority skin color before and know a little how it feels. Talk about it when you can. Sometimes, though, you just need to ignore it.

In my own experience (about twice) I have felt that a black person had been hypersensitive towards me. As a 13 year old I was punched by a black guy just because I mentioned that another fellow's skin was darker than his. And, my brother and I, as teenagers, had rocks thrown at us by black guys while we were walking down the street. We had pointed to and talked about an interesting looking car on the street and didn't see the black guys behind the car. They felt we were talking about them I guess. These were painful but valuable learning experiences for me.

SKEPTIC: To tell a black person that they're being hypersensitive when they perceive racism is to dismiss their feelings as not important. The problem, of course, is that many people say racist things or engage in racist behavior with absolutely no awareness that it's racist. That's what happened with Dr. Laura. Her whole attitude was racist, from not understanding the difference between a black comic using the n-word and a white radio host using that same word, to her comment that if the caller was hypersensitive, she "shouldn't marry out of her race."

And exactly how is telling the caller to ignore racist comments any kind of solution to the problem? A better answer would be to insist that her husband take his friends aside and tell them to knock it off!

PREACHER: Of course talking with her husband would be an appropriate way of dealing with the problem, while talking directly to his friends may egg them on (ignore is better here). The goal is to not give offense or be offended. Offense leads to offense leads to offense....

SKEPTIC: The problem with Dr. Laura is the opposite of hypersensitivity - she needs to educate herself and learn how to be more sensitive to her own racist attitudes, and maybe become a better person in the process.

PREACHER: Without excusing Dr. Laura, are you saying that the feelings of black people are more important the feelings of those who are not? Dr. Laura expressed her feelings in an inappropriate way, but nonetheless she had them. Who made you her judge? Are you suggesting that you have supernaturally read Dr. Laura's mind and know for a fact that her inappropriate words were motivated by deep seated feelings of racism?  I have black friends and have learned to be on guard around them with my choice of the words, not because I need to hide any racist feelings I have towards them, but because I respect them for who they are and would never want to offend them. I learned that by interacting with them, not by "educating myself" or self-mortification. We live in an imperfect world where the mistakes of the past have left scars that are still festering.  Responsible people regardless of skin color, sex, culture, nationality or religion should be working at not offending and not getting offended, building bridges rather than walls.

SKEPTIC: No, I'm not saying that the feelings of black people are important, but they certainly are more attuned to what constitutes racist behavior.

Who made me Dr. Laura's judge? Well, she did - by putting herself on the public airwaves every day. When you publicly put forth your opinions, the public is entitled to judge those opinions. It's part of the bargain you make when you do a radio show. And I certainly don't need to "supernaturally read her mind" to know that she's a racist. I mean, geez, she practically screamed, "Hey, world, look at me - I'm a big, fat racist!" - which is precisely why her entire radio empire has come crashing down.

But I can certainly agree with you that we should be "building bridges rather than walls." Unfortunately, Dr. Laura hasn't contributed to that goal.

PREACHER:  Very true!

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