Friday, August 13, 2010

Dr. Laura uses the N-word on the radio

Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a conservative-minded radio personality that specializes in relationships (though her doctorate degree is in physiology), recently used the N-word several times on her program.

She has since apologized for her use of the word, stressing that she doesn't condone its use but that she was attempting to make a philosophical point -- that it's hypocritical that some black people use it affectionately for each other while whites cannot use it at all.

Philosophical or not, when you engage another person on a topic of great controversy, where hundreds of years of historical oppression are well-documented, you are required to be respectful, courteous, and mindful of the subject at hand. And if you do offend, you certainly don't exacerbate the problem by calling the person you're talking with "hypersensitive."

The argument that it's "just a word" and that others use it so it's OK, doesn't make it OK to use it yourself. Words carry very strong emotions with them, emotions that are triggered by the historical context of those words you use. Calling a person a Nazi is likely to illicit a stronger response from a Jewish person in Germany than some random citizen walking in downtown Madison. Likewise, a white person who hears the N-word isn't going to be affected in the same way a black person would.

It shouldn't be expected, then, by Dr. Laura or anyone else, that its use wouldn't cause emotions to flare, for some to feel greatly offended by anyone else who utters it.

I do believe her when she says she's sorry. But she should have known better -- her actions show she is truly ignorant on the issue, and should make her listeners wonder how qualified she is to be giving out advice to them.

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