Dr. Laura, the n-word and the First Amendment

A word or two on the Dr. Laura controversy, including my thoughts on the n-word and my musings on Laura Schlessinger’s misunderstanding of the First Amendment:

First off, I don’t approve of the commonplace use of the n-word by comedians, rap stars or most others. (There are exceptions, such as its use by excellent novelists, playwrights and movie script writers, but they are too few to influence the general case.) The word is crude, vulgar and a sign of a poor vocabulary.
Do I think Schlessinger’s use of the word was “racist”? No, just stupid.
As I wrote in a column a few years ago:

Only one thing is certain about use of the n-word, a lasting truth that was uttered by the courageous Atticus Finch, hero of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“Do you defend niggers, Atticus?” his daughter Scout asks him. Finch answers with a pearl of wisdom:
“Of course I do. Don’t say ‘nigger, ‘ Scout. That’s common.”
Finch’s words — actually, the words are those of my hometown heroine, Harper Lee, who wrote the book in the late 1950s — retain a simple profundity. All you can know for certain about those who use that epithet is that they are a little too comfortable with crudeness. How could it be otherwise, when the term is used by racists to demean and by black rappers and comedians to entertain? . .

As for the n-word, Harvard law school professor Randall Kennedy explored its awful power in a scholarly book called “Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.”
“There is much to be gained by allowing people of all backgrounds to yank (the word) away from white supremacists, to subvert its ugliest denotation.” Kennedy writes.
I respectfully disagree. I still like the better advice Atticus gave Scout: Don’t use the word.

My second point centers on Schlessinger’s misunderstanding of the “freedoms” she and other conservatives are so fond of touting.

She should go back and read a high school civics text. As she told Larry King:

Well, I’m here to say that my contract is up for my radio show at the end of the year and I have made the decision not to do radio anymore. The reason is: I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what’s on my mind, and in my heart, what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is a time to silence a voice of dissent, and attack affiliates and attack sponsors.

What tripe! What a perfect example of the sort of trumped-up victimhood she is fond of denouncing on the radio!
Nobody took her First Amendment rights. She is free to use the n-word as often as she likes. But other people have First Amendment rights to be outraged about it and to say so.
The First Amendment does not protect you from other people’s anger. Is she kidding?

571 comments Add your comment

Rita

August 20th, 2010
4:19 pm

So true, Ms. Tucker. “Dr.” Laura finally was pulled out enough rope to hang herself. Good riddance to another toxic narcissistic bully.

Kamchak

August 20th, 2010
4:19 pm

Ms. Tucker

Very commendable to leave this open for comments.

Sick&Tired

August 20th, 2010
4:23 pm

Dr. Laura and Sarah Palin are both off their meds. Unless she is being jailed or tape is put on her mouth; her first amendment rights are in tact.

All I have to say to Dr. Laura is KEEP TALKING…

We have the right to denounce all of her advertisers and the right to let them know we will NOT purchase anything from someone who would support an idiot.

Lynn

August 20th, 2010
4:24 pm

I totally agree with you, Cynthia. Amen!

Mr Charlie

August 20th, 2010
4:27 pm

How about when they left the great Reverend JJ’s mike on? Why has that not sparked outrage? Can you imagine the horror it it was a white person who was caught saying these things?

Moral of the story? You want to erase double standards, start with the ones that apply to the black community.

RJ

August 20th, 2010
4:30 pm

“Well, I’m here to say that my contract is up for my radio show at the end of the year and I have made the decision not to do radio anymore. The reason is: I want to regain my First Amendment rights. I want to be able to say what’s on my mind, and in my heart, what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special interest group deciding this is a time to silence a voice of dissent, and attack affiliates and attack sponsors”

She should actually read the First Amendment. Nowhere does it give you the right to say whatever you want. All it says is that Congress wont take that right from you. If any private company whom employs you wants to restrict your speech, they have the authority. Carrie Prejan’s claim that she was exercising her First Amendment rights is just as misguided.

If the AJC wants to censor CT, they can. If Congress wants to censor CT, their hands are tied.

granny godzilla

August 20th, 2010
4:32 pm

Oh the Irony!

From Free Republic

Dr. Laura’s Blog: Sarah Palin and Motherhood
Dr Laura’s Website ^ | 2 September 2008 | Dr. Laura

Posted on Thursday, September 04, 2008 12:44:15 PM by mrhansen

Sarah Palin and Motherhood September 2, 2008 on 1:35 pm | In Children, Election, Sarah Palin, Working Women Email This Post Email This Post

I am extremely disappointed in the choice of Sarah Palin as the Vice Presidential candidate of the Republican Party. I will still vote for Senator McCain, because I am very concerned about having a fundamental leftist, especially one who is a marvelous orator, as President.

……

I’m stunned – couldn’t the Republican Party find one competent female with adult children to run for Vice President with McCain? I realize his advisors probably didn’t want a “mature” woman, as the Democrats keep harping on his age. But really, what kind of role model is a woman whose fifth child was recently born with a serious issue, Down Syndrome, and then goes back to the job of Governor within days of the birth?

I am haunted by the family pictures of the Palins during political photo-ops, showing the eldest daughter, now pregnant with her own child, cuddling the family’s newborn. When Mom and Dad both work full-time (no matter how many folks get involved with the children), it becomes a somewhat chaotic situation. Certainly, if a child becomes ill and is rushed to the hospital, and you’re on the hotline with both Israel and Iran as nuclear tempers are flaring, where’s your attention going to be? Where should your attention be? Well, once you put your hand on the Bible and make that oath, your attention has to be with the government of the United States of America.

Pnut

August 20th, 2010
4:33 pm

Where did you say you were from Cynthia?

granny godzilla

August 20th, 2010
4:33 pm

and when some speak out against a mosque at ground zero, why not just view it as them exercising their 1st amendment rights?

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

August 20th, 2010
4:33 pm

Who’s Doctor Laura?

Just askin…

Kamchak

August 20th, 2010
4:35 pm

How about when they left the great Reverend JJ’s mike on? Why has that not sparked outrage?

Google jesse jackson open mike and you’ll get 91,100 results.

What’s the number of results that equals outrage? Over 100,000?

Mr Charlie

August 20th, 2010
4:37 pm

Granny, So you don’t think that a woman with a small child is competent to be president?

granny godzilla

August 20th, 2010
4:37 pm

Maybe she should call herself “Reverend” Laura.

KimikoCat

August 20th, 2010
4:38 pm

Dr. Laura had some good ideas when she was starting out, such as that women should finish their educations and be able to support themselves and a child before becoming pregnant. Alas, fame and influence went to her head and she turned into a megalomaniac who could never admit that even the Pope doesn’t claim to be infallible as often as she does.

granny godzilla

August 20th, 2010
4:38 pm

Of course a woman with a small child is competent to be president.

The Leg Lamp is a "major award" much like CT's Pulitzer and Imam Obama's Nobel.

August 20th, 2010
4:39 pm

KimikoCat

August 20th, 2010
4:38 pm

Harumph, harumph!!

granny godzilla

August 20th, 2010
4:40 pm

Mr Charlie

That was a reprint of Dr. Laura’s comments.

That is what this means:

From Free Republic

Dr. Laura’s Blog: Sarah Palin and Motherhood
Dr Laura’s Website ^ | 2 September 2008 | Dr. Laura

Posted on Thursday, September 04, 2008 12:44:15 PM by mrhansen

Mr. Charlie, is that simple enough for you to understand?

I think women can do anything except be sperm donors.

Stonethrower

August 20th, 2010
4:41 pm

Mr. Charlie Did you even read the editorial? She did call out blacks as well for using the word. There you go looking for something that isn’t there. Like a child that gets in trouble you fall back on that “well what about so and so”. Any commentator, radio or TV host or any other public figure is free to use that word. No one is taking that right away from them. If the folks who pay the bills continue to pay the bills then so be it. I just don’t have to support them and the products they endorse.
As for Ms. Schlessingerr, I’m glad she used the word in mixed company. That just lets me know that she and her ilk are using it behind my back

granny godzilla

August 20th, 2010
4:41 pm

let me post another great quote. This is from the NYT in 2007:

Mr. Obama recalled the opening lines of the Arabic call to prayer, reciting them with a first-rate accent. In a remark that seemed delightfully uncalculated (it’ll give Alabama voters heart attacks), Mr. Obama described the call to prayer as “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.”

Pogo

August 20th, 2010
4:42 pm

I find it very interesting that a word can garner so much attention and that it can stir people with so much emotion meanwhile violent black on black crime goes on and on and on in the cities and it seems to be pretty much accepted as “normal”. It is almost as if government, the racial activists and the media are saying, “as long as caucasions don’t use “THE” word, the violent crime statistics for black on black crime in the big cities don’t matter. Killing one another is much, much worse than the use of a word by anyone outside of the race but somehow use of the word gets all the attention. Maybe it is easier to blame the “caucasion monster” for all your races problems rather than to address the reals ones themselves. Thus the fixation on a word. It is an easy out.

The word is just that, a word. Any group of people that is secure in their viability should never be insulted by just a word unless they are accepting and stating that they are born victims and they can be controlled by someone else by the mere use of a word or words.

Freedom Town

August 20th, 2010
4:42 pm

I would never call a woman those terms or a homosexual those terms but I was using examples of why people should think before they speak or get their personal life in shambles at the end of the day once the damage has been done. That’s final. This is not up for discussion. It’s doesn’t matter if a group calls themselves whatever, if they find it offensive when you say it, as we learned in elementary school, you shouldn’t say it. That’s all.

granny godzilla

August 20th, 2010
4:42 pm

oh yeah, and women can’ t pee against a wall

KimikoCat

August 20th, 2010
4:43 pm

Granny, of course anyone has the First Amendment right to criticize a mosque at ground zero. However, before they open their mouths and sound stupid, they might want to remember that the building is a former Burlington Coat Factory store, and it’s intended to be a community center with a prayer room, not a mosque. Also, it’s not at ground zero, it’s two blocks away and not visible from ground zero–just like a strip club on the same street.

Mr Charlie

August 20th, 2010
4:45 pm

How could you expect whites to NOT use the word if it is relevant in black conversations (as we know, the great rev uses it to describe the president of the united states). It is just a big game of “gotcha” the black community loves to play, otherwise, they would not use it either. Again, it just reinforces how you want to be treated the same, but be different.

Kamchak

August 20th, 2010
4:45 pm

oh yeah, and women can’ t pee against a wall

An over rated experience.

granny godzilla

August 20th, 2010
4:46 pm

Oh you cute little name jacker you!

I sleep better every night knowing how much I scare you.

It being Friday night steak night and all, after dinner when we are having a wee bit o’ Jack in our trusty old spa out back, we’ll
raise our glasses in honor of the pitiful creature that you are.

And laugh.

Have a good weekend all -

Mr Charlie

August 20th, 2010
4:48 pm

I figured someone took you name, that is weak for sure. Have a good weekend yourself.

Kamchak

August 20th, 2010
4:48 pm

as we know…

I didn’t give you the authority to speak for me, sport.

Freedom Town

August 20th, 2010
4:48 pm

I don’t know what happen to the first post I wrote but I will post it again.

Since we are using 1st Amendment.

1. Dr. Laura a c_nt.

2. Sarah Palin is a c_nt.

3. Palin son is a r_t_rd.

4. Palin grandchild is a b__tard.

I can call any woman a b__ch because I heard other women call each other b__ches. My 1st Amendment rights. You better not Women Rights me either.

Or

Your a f__got, what are you going to do. I am sick and tired of f__gots like you wanting rights. You better not G_y Rights or Pride me either. You want rights and call your friends q__ers openly but we can’t do it. Why is that? That’s a double standard. How many times have you people said hateful things to us and your the most racist and sexist people their is. More so than anyone else. Prop 8 was forced on us. Why? Tell me? Why are you in all the top positions in the corporate world? It’s not fair!

I cleaned up the text to be more PG quality but this is the text from earlier.

Freedom Town

August 20th, 2010
4:50 pm

My response to my earlier more offensive post.

I would never call a woman those terms or a homosexual those terms but I was using examples of why people should think before they speak or get their personal life in shambles at the end of the day once the damage has been done. That’s final. This is not up for discussion. It’s doesn’t matter if a group calls themselves whatever, if they find it offensive when you say it, as we learned in elementary school, you shouldn’t say it. That’s all.

granny godzilla

August 20th, 2010
4:50 pm

Kimiko….nove to blog meet ya…

the comment you are commenting on was not me but a “worshipper” of mine.

Hope you come back to the blog Monday so I can read more of your fine words.

I like the way you think…..Now I really am outa here.

Cross your fingers for me….hoping the grandson appears this weekend.

Mr Charlie

August 20th, 2010
4:51 pm

Freedom Town. Are you writing a rap song?

granny godzilla

August 20th, 2010
4:53 pm

Did you just say you were going to wee in the spa and laugh?……..muuuwaaAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

Mr Charlie

August 20th, 2010
4:54 pm

The fact is, if the black community want the word to just go away, they need to stop using it. As long as they do, it will be in the sub-conscience of us all. But I really don’t believe the black community really wants it to truly go away, otherwise, they would stop using it, and it would.

Freedom Town

August 20th, 2010
4:54 pm

No, of course not. Here is the main point of the first post.
Self deprecating humor (or the social group in question using the “slur”) is funny. It’s sorta like the in joke. However, when an outsider, who has not gone through the trials and tribulations said group has gone through, says the joke, its more out of ignorance and displaced callousness. Simply put, you can make fun of your sister, and yourself, but lord help either one of us if we make fun of the others sister. Is that better?

sarah p.

August 20th, 2010
4:54 pm

What’s the big whoop, it’s not like she used the word retard.

Interesting

August 20th, 2010
4:55 pm

Totally off subject, but why is Freedom Town’s font different?

Stonethrower

August 20th, 2010
4:55 pm

Mr. Charlie you are free to use the word whenever and whereever you like. Especially at your work place then use as your defense, “well that use it against each other.”

paleo-neo-Carlinist

August 20th, 2010
4:56 pm

CT, you had me until “there are exceptions…” the First Amendment is “all in” when it comes to words. consider this; I don’t like the word “common” as used by Harper Lee. to me it suggests that a person’s “value” is determined by his/her use of language. Dr. Laura is, as noted, a toxic, narcissitic fool; but I don’t have a problem with her use of the word (shame, I can’t even use it, lest I be moderated out of the loop). When we “edit” history we cheapen it. In short, we become the “revisionist historians” we like villify. It’s just a word, and give it value or power is to “weaponize” it. If you, like Atticus Finch believe a person is “common” by the language they use, do the math, and regard them as such in future dealings. We the People really have taken the “offensive” thing too far. Stop the presses; some people are common, vulgar and uncouth! And not merely n****rs.

sarah p.

August 20th, 2010
4:57 pm

trig’s a tard

The Leg Lamp is a "major award" much like CT's Pulitzer and Imam Obama's Nobel.

August 20th, 2010
5:01 pm

Yes, the “n” word is offensive, but so is the “d” word (democrat). Or the real “l” word (liberal).

Mr Charlie

August 20th, 2010
5:01 pm

No Stone, I don’t use the word in public due to our mores. I accept the double standards, as as long as double standards exist, there will be double standards on both sides of the asle and barriers will exist.

I guess the black community is just not secure enough in their idenity to let go of this security blanket.

I accept that.

Freedom Town

August 20th, 2010
5:02 pm

If women do not want to be c_nt, then do not be c_nts.
If homosexuals do not want to be refered to as q_eers or f__gots, then quit being etc.
If you do not want me to call you f__kface bamboo looking d__k then etc.

No matter how you frame it, groups will use words the way they want especially if their within that group. That doesn’t mean you should use think of it.

When your in Elementary School you have a teacher right? His or her name is John, Pam, Sally, or etc. The prefix before it is Ms./Mr. right? As a teacher, you can go up to Ms. Johnson and call her Pam. If your a student, can you call her Pam? This is just one sign of not being able to call someone something because of respect or whatever the reason maybe, you can’t call her Pam. You as a student call her Ms. Johnson.

I could use so many different examples but I am afraid common sense is foreign to you. This is something a five year old child can do.

granny godzilla

August 20th, 2010
5:05 pm

You’re right, Freedom, I’ve heard many a 5 year old black kid refer to the other by using the N-word.

Freedom Town

August 20th, 2010
5:07 pm

This is case close topic and should always be. We learn words and the meaning of them throughout life. We learn as males not to call women derogatory terms. We learn not to call other races those terms. We learn not to call others who are different certain terms. This should be common knowledge. Do not use the word! No matter if a woman, another race, or types of people decide to call themselves that, you shouldn’t call them that if you aren’t a part.

nancy lucero

August 20th, 2010
5:08 pm

“Dr.” Laura has no soul. She’s a talking walking shell of a human being. Narcissistic to the core, this woman has no business advising people on personal and family issues. Thirty years of abusing callers and now she’s held accountable. What does this say about her sponsors and listeners. Not much.

paleo-neo-Carlinist

August 20th, 2010
5:11 pm

paleo-neo-Carlinists know something about this stuff. as I noted on the “Muslim” blog, my lord and savior is famous for “seven words”. he often joked there were more words used to describe the words than actual “bad” words. what we must ask ourselves is; who gets to decide? as noted this morning, the FCC was the one who “made a case” out of Carlin’s routine. you got that; the government. what’s next (mosques in lower Manhattan). it is impossible to not offend 300 million people, and as I said, Harper Lee has some cajones calling me (or Patti Smith, Richard Pryor, or Mark Twain, or Chuck D, or John Lennon, or… even Dr. Laura) “common”. I remind everyone of the pink triangle, which was the Nazi “mark” identifying homosexuals (often a death sentence). the gay and lesbian community has re-branded it as a symbol of pride and unity. maybe the black folks (and some whites) are saying, “this word is not the property of bigots and racists! This is OUR word!” That’s un-common in my book.

Mr Charlie

August 20th, 2010
5:12 pm

I got to go, just know in leaving, it is a double standard. And as long as you old onto your own double standards, it will make it very difficult to eradicate other double standards. It goes to your credibility.

Have a good night all.

Freedom Town

August 20th, 2010
5:13 pm

Most kids just pick up from their environment and I doubt you heard many refer to peers with that word. Even in the most terrible areas five year olds generally do not use those words on a regular basis. In fact, I doubt you have been around that many five year old black kids. The Internet is home for hiding behind your words and making false statements so I just do not take your comment that seriously.

hnf

August 20th, 2010
5:13 pm

paleo-neo-Carlinist,

you’ve completely missed what ctucker said. this isn’t a first amendment issue–there’s been no government action to inhibit speech. and to refrain from using a word b/c of the inciteful and/or demoralizing impact it is likely to have on others does not revisionist history make. of course people will be vulgar and insensitive; but the appropriate reaction to that vulgarity/insensitivity is public condemnation and scorn. it’s not “just a word”, given its undeniable dehumanizing connotation. it’s ignorant to pretend otherwise.

whether dr. laura is a racist depends on her subjective intentions and is hard to know w/ certainty; that she would use the word repeatedly (while condescending to a polite caller) is objectively indicative of incredible stupidity. she deserves everything she gets, if for no other reason than she should’ve known better.