You would think, almost two years since John McCain Released the Krakpot upon Our Fair Nation, we would cease to be
amazed distressed disgusted amused by the proclamations of America’s Quitter. We’re not worried about her — worried, that is, that she has a polar bear’s chance on a globally warmed ice floe of regaining official power — but Talibunny’s ability to steer the national discourse into new depths of ugliness remains unparalleled.
Yes, Pam Geller gets credit for lighting a fire under the Not-Ground Zero Not-Mosque, and Newt did his best to raise the temperature. But it took Sarah Palin to fan the flames into unrelenting bigotry.
And now, it appears, she was only getting started:
SarahPalinUSA Dr.Laura:don’t retreat…reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence“isn’t American,not fair”)
SarahPalinUSA Dr.Laura=even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice,America!
Those two tweets showed up in quick succession Wednesday night. If you’re unfamiliar with the backstory, we’ll get to it in a moment.
But here’s the executive summary: Sarah Palin is applauding the insulting use of “nigger” by a White person to a Black person in polite conversation.
Not just applauding — encouraging.
And no, we’re not being satirically hyperbolic. If only.
Our story begins a week ago Tuesday, in the studio of Laura Schlessinger’s call-in radio show. We’re running the transcript in full (as we almost did last week), because that’s the only way to do justice to it:
SCHLESSINGER: Jade, welcome to the program.
CALLER: Hi, Dr. Laura.
CALLER: I’m having an issue with my husband where I’m starting to grow very resentful of him. I’m black, and he’s white. We’ve been around some of his friends and family members who start making racist comments as if I’m not there or if I’m not black. And my husband ignores those comments, and it hurts my feelings. And he acts like —
SCHLESSINGER: Well, can you give me an example of a racist comment? ‘Cause sometimes people are hypersensitive. So tell me what’s — give me two good examples of racist comments.
CALLER: OK. Last night — good example — we had a neighbor come over, and this neighbor — when every time he comes over, it’s always a black comment. It’s, “Oh, well, how do you black people like doing this?” And, “Do black people really like doing that?” And for a long time, I would ignore it. But last night, I got to the point where it —
SCHLESSINGER: I don’t think that’s racist.
CALLER: Well, the stereotype —
SCHLESSINGER: I don’t think that’s racist. No, I think that —
SCHLESSINGER: No, no, no. I think that’s — well, listen, without giving much thought, a lot of blacks voted for Obama simply ’cause he was half-black. Didn’t matter what he was gonna do in office, it was a black thing. You gotta know that. That’s not a surprise. Not everything that somebody says — we had friends over the other day; we got about 35 people here — the guys who were gonna start playing basketball. I was going to go out and play basketball. My bodyguard and my dear friend is a black man. And I said, “White men can’t jump; I want you on my team.” That was racist? That was funny.
CALLER: How about the N-word? So, the N-word’s been thrown around —
SCHLESSINGER: Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is nigger, nigger, nigger.
CALLER: That isn’t —
SCHLESSINGER: 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. Don’t hang up, I want to talk to you some more. Don’t go away.
I’m Dr. Laura Schlessinger. I’ll be right back.
At the very least, Schlessinger is being insensitive here. (Also, patronizing. And, intermittently stupid.) But when the show returns from break, she charges right back into it:
SCHLESSINGER: I’m Dr. Laura Schlessinger, talking to Jade. What did you think about during the break, by the way?
CALLER: I was a little caught back by the N-word that you spewed out, I have to be honest with you. But my point is, race relations —
SCHLESSINGER: Oh, then I guess you don’t watch HBO or listen to any black comedians.
CALLER: But that doesn’t make it right. I mean, race is a [unintelligible] —
SCHLESSINGER: My dear, my dear —
CALLER: — since Obama’s been in office —
SCHLESSINGER: — the point I’m trying to make —
CALLER: — racism has come to another level that’s unacceptable.
SCHLESSINGER: Yeah. We’ve got a black man as president, and we have more complaining about racism than ever. I mean, I think that’s hilarious.
CALLER: But I think, honestly, because there’s more white people afraid of a black man taking over the nation.
SCHLESSINGER: They’re afraid.
CALLER: If you want to be honest about it [unintelligible]
SCHLESSINGER: Dear, they voted him in. Only 12 percent of the population’s black. Whites voted him in.
CALLER: It was the younger generation that did it. It wasn’t the older white people who did it.
SCHLESSINGER: Oh, OK.
CALLER: It was the younger generation —
SCHLESSINGER: All right. All right.
CALLER: — that did it.
SCHLESSINGER: Chip on your shoulder. I can’t do much about that.
CALLER: It’s not like that.
SCHLESSINGER: Yeah. I think you have too much sensitivity —
CALLER: So it’s OK to say “nigger”?
SCHLESSINGER: — and not enough sense of humor.
CALLER: It’s OK to say that word?
SCHLESSINGER: It depends how it’s said.
CALLER: Is it OK to say that word? Is it ever OK to say that word?
SCHLESSINGER: It’s — it depends how it’s said. Black guys talking to each other seem to think it’s OK.
CALLER: But you’re not black. They’re not black. My husband is white.
SCHLESSINGER: Oh, I see. So, a word is restricted to race. Got it. Can’t do much about that.
CALLER: I can’t believe someone like you is on the radio spewing out the “nigger” word, and I hope everybody heard it.
SCHLESSINGER: I didn’t spew out the “nigger” word.
CALLER: You said, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.”
SCHLESSINGER: Right, I said that’s what you hear.
CALLER: Everybody heard it.
SCHLESSINGER: Yes, they did.
CALLER: I hope everybody heard it.
SCHLESSINGER: They did, and I’ll say it again —
CALLER: So what makes it OK for you to say the word?
SCHLESSINGER: — nigger, nigger, nigger is what you hear on HB —
CALLER: So what makes it —
SCHLESSINGER: Why don’t you let me finish a sentence?
SCHLESSINGER: Don’t take things out of context. Don’t double N — NAACP me. Tape the —
CALLER: I know what the NAACP —
SCHLESSINGER: Leave them in context.
CALLER: I know what the N-word means and I know it came from a white person. And I know the white person made it bad.
SCHLESSINGER: All right. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Can’t have this argument. You know what? If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race. If you’re going to marry out of your race, people are going to say, “OK, what do blacks think? What do whites think? What do Jews think? What do Catholics think?” Of course there isn’t a one-think per se. But in general there’s “think.”
And what I just heard from Jade is a lot of what I hear from black-think — and it’s really distressing and disturbing. And to put it in its context, she said the N-word, and I said, on HBO, listening to black comics, you hear “nigger, nigger, nigger.” I didn’t call anybody a nigger. Nice try, Jade. Actually, sucky try.
Need a sense of humor, sense of humor — and answer the question. When somebody says, “What do blacks think?” say, “This is what I think. This is what I read that if you take a poll the majority of blacks think this.” Answer the question and discuss the issue. It’s like we can’t discuss anything without saying there’s -isms?
We have to be able to discuss these things. We’re people — goodness gracious me. Ah — hypersensitivity, OK, which is being bred by black activists. I really thought that once we had a black president, the attempt to demonize whites hating blacks would stop, but it seems to have grown, and I don’t get it. Yes, I do. It’s all about power. I do get it. It’s all about power and that’s sad because what should be in power is not power or righteousness to do good — that should be the greatest power.
Good golly, there’s a lot to unpack there — much more than we’ll be doing here.
But let’s start by saying that there is a legitimate civil conversation that can be had about the history and contemporary use of “nigger”. Only that’s not what Schlessinger was doing. Instead, she was using “nigger” to belittle and dismiss the caller’s legitimate concerns.
How do we know those concerns are legitimate? Well, let’s ask the White wife of one of those Black comics:
Q. Can you tell me about the time… you said the “n” word…
A. Well, it only came out once. That was that time I talk about, when everybody was sitting around and snorting dope and being very hip, and I thought I’d be very hip, too, and of course I was the only white person, and I thought he was going to kill me. But as I said in the story, he just took me outside, and showed me the stars, and said, “Which one is a n-i-g-g-e-r?” And that was quite a lesson I had in humility.
That would be Jennifer Lee Pryor, telling a story she also tells on Comedy Central’s frequently repeated Richard Pryor tribute. Even when you’re Richard Pryor’s wife — even when you’re among his friends — it’s definitely not cool to say “nigger”, even when they do. And that was before Pryor famously disowned the word himself.
Schlessinger might want to TiVo that next time it airs.
What happened in the days after Schlessinger’s “N-Word Rant” can be recounted quickly: She apologized, Media Matters called for a Beck-style advertiser boycott, and then she appeared on Larry King to announce she’s quitting her show at the end of the year.
That, and wrap herself in the First Amendment:
Well, like “Media Matters” and some of the other groups that have lined up to decide that I should be silenced because they disagree with my points of view. I never called anybody a bad word. I was trying to bring — and obviously, it has become a national discussion now — I was trying to make a philosophical point and I made it wrong.
But I wasn’t dissing anybody. I was trying to make a point. And for that to say I should be silenced is the reason that I’m saying to you, I obviously am losing First Amendment rights.
We don’t recall the FCC adding “nigger” to the Seven Dirty Words. And far from being silenced, Schlessinger pulled a Carrie Prejean by complaining about her lack of free speech on a national broadcast. She still enjoys the same free speech we do, although she still gets paid a lot more for it.
Meanwhile, Sarah Palin isn’t the first to herald Laura Schlessinger as the Nigger Martyr — the Usual Suspects have been howling about it for days. But the Usual Suspects howl about a lot of things, including the Not-Mosque, without anybody else paying attention. It takes an impeccably mangled 140-character volley from the Mama Bigot to raise the profile of an issue like this.
And where Palin insists that the Not-Mosque developers consider the feelings of Concerned Demagogues before exercising their First Amendment rights, she’s more than happy to ignore the still-lingering effects of centuries of slavery and discrimination in America while standing proud for Dr. Laura’s sacrosanct right to nigger-nigger-nigger on national radio.
Oh, and Jade?
WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU DOING CALLING DR. LAURA?
Because, y’know, that “doctor” part? Physiology.