During her recent radio show Dr. Laura Schlessinger used a racially offensive term for African Americans. She repeatedly used the N word in her response to a call from an African American woman, who was unhappy and offended by her white husband’s friends frequent use of the N word. Dr. Laura told the caller that if she was so “hypersensitive and didn’t have a sense of humor, she shouldn’t be marrying outside her race”. Dr. Schlessinger’s attack on the woman’s feelings is an insult to all professional therapists who understand that feelings are real and need to be understood, not diminished. Her attack on the woman’s choice of mate is an insult to all Americans who have chosen to marry outside their race and who are doing so in increasing numbers. Why is Dr. Schlessinger so out of touch? Is it because she is white and therefore insulated from the ongoing barbs that many non-white Americans live with on a daily basis? Is it because she is affluent and people give her recognition and respect and does not have to deal with being invisible in the way that janitors, gardeners and laborers deal with? Is it because she is a Jewish and is relatively insulated from non-Jews?
Dr. Laura Schlessinger doesn’t get it because she doesn’t understand that there is a difference when outsiders use words that are pejorative and when insiders use those same words. Dr. Laura might laugh at a joke that a Jewish comic makes, about Jews being stingy but she might be offended if a non-Jew makes the same joke. I believe, she would be offended if a non-Jew used the word “kike”, let alone went on rant saying “kike, kike, kike”. If Dr. Schlesinger was hurt or offended, I would hope that no one would say to her that she is too sensitive or to religious. Just as people have different degrees of melanin; Jews have different degrees of religiosity. Would she like to be told that she has too much “Jewishness”?
Words have histories. Words can harm, they can hurt, and can be used to perpetuate myths, stereotypes and un-truths. If men use the B_____ word or the C___ word amongst themselves they are perpetuating sexism without necessarily inflicting pain or fear since, women may not be in their presence. If men used those words to describe Dr. Schlessinger, she would probably be offended, and rightly so. Very few women would say she’s being too sensitive. And if women used those two words to refer to each other, they would be using the words that men have used for years to humiliate and belittle women. When women use those words however, they are rarely used in conjunction with physical abuse and are not likely to create fear. When men use these words in front of women to describe them, the reaction would probably be one of fear and terror. The B—- and C—- words have been used in conjunction with punching, beating, raping and the killing of women. Women, when they use that word would not likely punch, beat and kill other women. The N word has been used by white parents to prevent their children from going to schools or befriending African Americans. The N word has been used by police to belittle torture, beat and shoot African Americans. The N word has been used by teachers and councilors to diminish the aspirations of their students. The N word has been used by whites to murder and hang African Americans. Dr. Schlessinger, as a woman and as a Jew but, mostly as an American should be aware of different worlds and realities that men and women, whites and people of color, heterosexuals and gays and lesbians live in. Their worlds are real. Dr. Schlessinger needs to get real. She needs to learn about these other worlds and not impose her reality as if it is the only one that matters.
The fact that we have a bi-racial president is indeed a sign of progress in race relations. The fact that so many Americans still believe that our president is not a citizen, that he is a traitor and, that he is trying to do away with our Constitution and Bill of Rights, indicates that racism is still alive and flourishing. Dr. Schlessinger has contributed to the perpetuation and reality of racism in America in 2010.
Dr. Rabow is a Prof. Emeritus, UCLA; Lect. CSUN, a psychotherapist and founder of CCODE, a diversity training organization.