Dr. Laura and the Use of the N Word

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Jean Marie Brown
August 18, 2010

Justification and motivation are two key ingredients of thorough reporting. The why of an incident can sometimes transcend what has occurred. But journalists have to be careful that the justification doesn't become a fact when it's actually a rationalization. Justifications have to be challenged and, if necessary, refuted. 

The recent coverage of Dr. Laura's use of the n-word has lacked this element. The last chapter - that she is giving up her talk show at year's end - is couched in terms of free speech. Or rather that she feels she has lost the right of free speech to critics and special interests who don't like what she has to say. I don't dispute that that is her justification, but I question why no reporters are really delving into what this story is about - the use of offensive language.









The reports of the initial incident included her justification for repeatedly firing of the n-word, but that justification was not questioned any more than her lament about the loss of free speech. Instead the coverage has reinforced a specious and prejudiced assumption that since the word is used liberally by some it must be okay for it to be used by all.

Interestingly enough, this is the only swear word that I can think of that falls under the 'everybody else is using it' defense. A rant about 'bitches and whores' would have likely gotten the same reaction, but I wonder if the justification that the words are spewed by the 'HBO comedians' and rappers would have been readily accepted as a justification.

The coverage of Dr. Laura collapsed because of a tendency to view matters of race, particularly involving racial minorities, as a monolith. The message that came through was that Dr. Laura was being chastised for saying a word that all African-Americans use. That message is as offensive as the word itself.

Some African-Americans use the word along with a bunch of other words that you wouldn't say in polite company. In fact, comedians have long used words that aren't uttered in everyday conversation, think Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor. I can't recall anyone ever suggesting that, talented as they might have been, either man was an arbiter on polite conversation.

The fact is that some African-Americans use the n-word, while others object to its use. The comedic routines and rap music that that Dr. Laura and everyone else cite as their pass to use the word aren't part of the mainstream conversation. That's why the 'explicit' are noted on iTunes and the comedy specials are on cable rather than network television where they would come under the scrutiny of the FCC. 

There's no excuse for using the word. It's a pejorative to the nth degree and so is the suggestion that all African-Americans use it.  






Dr. Laura

Well said, Jean Marie. As I said in the column you were kind enough to post from PoliticsDaily.com, how many times have you heard teachers, nurses, friends and family use this term? Do we use it at work? We have the right to say anything. But there will be consequences.

Use of the "N" Word

Thank you for pointing out the flaws in the Media coverage of Dr. Laura Schlessinger. This is why Stereo Typing groups can be so inflammatory. Dr. Laura wrapped herself in a Free Speech Blanket, in order to obscure the insult against African Americans. She implied that All African Americans listen to Rappers and Comedians, who spout the *N* word. She portrayed us as people who only watch BET and listen to Rap Music. Our music and culture is diverse, as are we as a people. She pointed out a genre of music that came into it's own in the 1980's. Before that we had music that set the tone for all of America. She used the same tactic as the KKK, when they attempted to dehumanize their target, African Americans. That is what Hitler did during the Holocaust in Europe, before exterminating jews. Yet, she is so insensitive that she is painting herself as a victim. Now she is joining that other Mental Midget, Sarah Palin. Those kinds of people always find an audience, and that is the sad part of all of this. Her on air rants and raves were just as obnoxious as Rappers who spout the, *N* Word. I personally find her offensive and her radio show did not hold my interest. There is little difference in her Shock Jock approach then in the Rap Music she used to defame African Americans.

what politically correct

what politically correct drivel


use of the "N" word

I do not feel that the "N" word should be used in every day language but I do believe that just as in every culture there are "white trash" as well as "niggers" and "beaners" and names that pertain to any other culture or group. As I said I do not believe that these words should be used in every day language as it is very disrespectful, free speech or not. If you can't say something nice don't say anything at all.

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