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Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Real Racism Problem

I am a writer so I guess it is my nature to be intrigued by language.  I don’t just hear what people say to me, I also “hear” what they don’t plainly come out and say.  You see, the way in which someone has articulated something can at times be more telling than what they have actually said.  As you probably know by now Dr. Laura Schlessinger used the N-word 11 times on her nationally syndicated radio show.  As a result the familiar debate about whether or not the N-word should be stricken from our vocabulary has again sprung up.  When people use such an emotionally charged word it is easy to pounce on them for doing so, and I get that.  Believe me I get that.  But what really bothers me about the exchange Schlessinger had with the caller is something I have labeled the real racism problem, rhetoric.  Everyone gets so caught up in the N-word, to the point that the real racism problem gets ignored.

So what Schlessinger used the N-word 11 times.  We all, well most of us anyway, agree that using it is wrong on some level.  What doesn’t get discussed, because of all the furor over a single word, are all those other insensitive words.  Used to form generalizing, offensive statements that are more harmful than the single N-word.

What Schlessinger Said:   
a lot of blacks voted for Obama simply 'cause he was half-black.  Didn't matter what he was gonna do in office
What I (Tanya Yvonne) heard:
Blacks do not know or care about the issues.  They operate like children where girls seek out other girls and boys seek out other boys simply because they are a like.  Meaning blacks looked at then candidate Obama and deduced, he looks like me so must vote for him.    
What Schlessinger Said:  It was a black thing.
What I heard:  Blacks are not individuals.

What Schlessinger Said:  You gotta know that. That's not a surprise
What I heard:  I know how you people are.

What Schlessinger Said:  I don't get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it's a horrible thing; but when black people say it, it's affectionate. It's very confusing.
What I heard:  I really don’t understand why you are feeling this way.

What Schlessinger Said:  Yeah. We've got a black man as president, and we have more complaining about racism than ever. I mean, I think that's hilarious.
What I heard:  We have a black president so I feel we no longer have a race problem.  I don’t care about how you are feeling.

Language is very powerful.  The Dr. Lauras of the world are masters of this rhetoric game.  Because it is never what they come out and plainly say that creates divides.  Only the residue.  That nasty stickiness that you can’t really see but somehow feel.  The N-word 11 times -clearly heard.  All those others words -kind of heard, but definitely felt.  Time to focus on the real racism problem.
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