Wow. Dr. Laura quits radio. She announced it on Larry King Live (1) last night (8/17/10) and my emotions are mixed. On the one hand I’d like to say that it’s about time that Dr. Laura quit radio; that I’m glad Dr. Laura quit radio; that it’s long overdue that Dr. Laura quits radio. At the same time though I don’t think that the reasons she quit radio are at all the point; nor should she have been so blatantly chastised for using the word in question; the ever-hated N-word.
Last night on Larry King Live Dr. Laura came on the program and basically told Larry King that she was “taking back her Constitutional right to free speech,” by giving up her talk radio gig. Dr. Laura has been on the radio for a long time and when I’d heard about his incident with a caller where Dr. Laura used the N-word eleven times during the course of the call, I was intrigued.
When I’d heard that call though; I was less than thrilled. Dr. Laura wasn’t using the N-word in any kind of a scandalous way; she was merely reporting back the facts that a lot of black people; black comic, black musicians, black entertainers; will use the N-word ad nausea in their individual industries. This woman on the phone was just looking for affirmation of some kind (she was black; her husband was white) the caller in question would have had a lot more success in finding validation of her feelings by maybe calling the far more sympathetic Dr. Joy Browne; Dr. Laura is not going to pull any punches and not going to call a club a spade. You can find links to the audio from the call HERE (2) and make your own decisions.
I am not black; I know a great deal about the history of blacks in America though. I also listen to a lot of hip-hop; rap music. One of my favorite ensembles was A Tribe Called Quest. Their analysis of the N-word in the song “Sucka N***a” is quite appropriate.
“See, n***a first was used back in the Deep South
Fallin out between the dome of the white man’s mouth
It means that we will never grow, you know the word dummy
Other n***a’s in the community think it’s crummy
But I don’t, neither does the youth cause we
Embrace adversity it goes right with the race
And being that we use it as a term of endearment
N***a’s start to bug to the dome is where the fear went.”
I know that the term was founded out of hate and intolerance and bigotry and horrible ends. Still, if Chris Rock or some other black comedian is going to get up onstage to an audience of black, whites, Asians, and Hispanics on HBO and make all of them laugh when he throws the word around, who gets the last laugh? Who’s making money from this incidence? The same with the Tribe Called Quest song; that song came out in 1999; it’s not like this discomfort with the word is anything all that new; still, who’s collecting royalties on that songs album sales? I don’t even really know why the word still has such divisive undertones; if some of the people are going to be able to say it freely but other races aren’t allowed to say it at all then we should just strike the term from use at all.