About “The N Word”

Everyone’s been buzzing this week about Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s decision to bail out of broadcast radio following that over-publicized “N-word” boo-boo on her nationally syndicated program. It’s really unfortunate that Dr. Laura feel the need to do jump ship—although there are four months between now and the end of the year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she surfaces in January on some other radio network.  Stuff like that happens in this business all the time.

Even more unfortunate is that Dr. Laura’s point—a very valid point—has been lost in all the name-calling and rock-throwing that followed her unfortunate foot-chomping moment. If only she’d had the good sense to say, “N-word, N-word, N-word” instead of actually using the N-word, perhaps the conversation could have turned more productive.

Dr. Laura’s point was, quite simply, that there is a double-standard in our society when it comes to the N-word. When I searched for a suitable picture to accompany this post, I found zillions of pictures of African-Americans wearing T-shirts with the offensive word emblazoned upon them, album covers, artwork, and other such examples of the same word being used daily, and I’ve yet to hear of the African-American community boycotting musicians or protesting in front of stores selling the offensive apparel.

Let’s be honest here: If Michael Baisden or Tom Joyner had made the same point in the same way using the same words, would it have even caused a blip in the national press? I’ve heard both of those national radio talents say things that, in the mouth of any Caucasian radio talent, would cause an immediate one-way trip to unemploymentland.

It’s a double-standard. It’s wrong. Period.

Personally, I find the “N-word” offensive. It’s offensive on African-American lips, it’s offensive on Caucasian lips, it’s offensive on any lips.

As a boy, I used that word once in my father’s presence—and I do mean exactly once. When I picked myself up from the floor, he explained to me in his salty and straightforward manner that if he ever heard that word on my lips again, I’d be taking a break from further conversation while having my teeth removed from my throat. He went on to say that he served side-by-side with black men in World War II who bled the same shade of red he did. He learned to judge a man by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin. He taught me to use the same method of measure.

Looking back, I can still recall the passion that drove his anger that day. It still speaks to me as it did then, of heartache-laden memories he seldom allowed to surface, respect for those who served our country regardless of their race,  and anger he could usually control when sober but that overtook him when he drank. I always felt there was more to Dad’s interracial war experience than he shared with me that day.  I regret that I never pursued that with him.

I do not, however, regret that I never again said the “N-word” in his presence.

On Don Imus and Racial Slurs

I’ve been biting my tongue and slapping my hands ever since the flap with Don Imus and his comment about the Rutgers women’s basketball team hit the news. Well, okay, I haven’t been biting my tongue, as my wife will surely attest. But, the time has come when I’ve got to speak my mind through my fingers–so here it is.

I don’t agree with or approve of Don Imus’ put-downs, either of the Rutgers team, or fat people, or any of his other targets. His radio show isn’t (make that wasn’t) on in my market, and if it were, I wouldn’t listen to it unless it was on one of my stations and I was working out a problem that required me to listen.  After thirty-five years in the radio business, I know that’s the most effective way to deal with offensive radio hosts–don’t listen.  When people don’t listen, radio programming changes. It’s one of the laws of the broadcasting universe.

Should Imus be fired? I don’t think so, at least not for this particular infraction. It was fairly mild compared to some of his shtick.

But, now that Imus has been fired for racially insensitive remarks, does this mean that other radio hosts who make racially insensitive remarks are on the chopping block? For example, the well-known, nationally syndicated black guys whose programs routinely contain insensitive racial slurs toward white folks? Probably not. It seems that we live in a land that openly supports racial double standards. It’s okay for a black radio host to make fun of white folks. If white hosts make fun of black folks, that’s different. If a white person complains about the racial slurs made against them, we’re told that our complaint is racially insensitive, and we are called racists. I speak from experience.

The other day I heard Harry Smith of the CBS Early Show interviewing a representative of the National Association of Black Journalists. He asked a fair question–the term “ho” is common in Hip-Hop culture, so how do we define who is permitted to say that and who is not? The NABJ representative non-answered the question–twice. Why? It was a legitimate question, and as a journalist the interviewee should have been prepared with an answer.  My question is even deeper:

Why do we even have a “National Association of Black Journalists” in the first place?

It is by definition a racially discriminatory organization. If someone formed a “National Association of White Journalists,” it would be branded as a racist organization before the ink was dry on their charter. Why is it that the “National Association of Black Journalists” isn’t considered a racist organization? It’s simple, really: it’s a racial double standard. Apparently, some people are allowed to be racists in America.

Jesus had simple, straightforward attitude about racial discrimination: He would not tolerate it in his disciples–period. Racism in any form is wrong. What Don Imus said was wrong. Treating any person in a different manner than someone else because of their race is wrong.

Racism in any form is wrong.


In any direction.