A couple of days ago I wrote a column for SI.com about Brent Bowers, the minor league manager who threw endless gay taunts at a homosexual umpire. The e-mails I’ve received—probably 200-to-250 total—have told an amazing story. Every person who proclaimed himself a liberal supported the column; said hatred toward gays is inexcusable. Every person who proclaimed himself a conservative damned me (and the umpire) to hell.
The piece came right around the same time another public figure created a similar stir. Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the conservative radio host, sparked her Tuesday show by using the N-word 11 times in a rambling diatribe (I’m running the full transcript at the bottom of this post). She seems to think the word is the word, and everyone has the right to use it; that the linguistic context doesn’t matter. In other words: If I make a joke about, say, my deceased grandmother, you should be able to, also).
This philosophy is, of course, ludicrous. But it also defines a certain brand of Republicanism in this country, and has done so for eons. The so-called Party of Lincoln specializes in hate, adjusting its targets to the vulnerability of the country. For example, when the Supreme Court ruled out separate-but-equal with Brown vs. Topeka Board of Ed. in 1954, GOPers across the country used it as the backbone of upcoming campaigns (Republicans will point out that southern Democrats were also against it. True—but a single region of the nation). The Florida state legislature ruled the decision null and void, and a Mississippi circuit court judge named Thomas Pickens Brady published a book, Black Monday, that called for the dissolution of the NAACP, the creation of a 49th state for “Negroes” and the abolition of public schools.
Fast forward to the 1992 Republican National Convention, which quickly turned into Gay Bash: ’92. One of the featured speakers was Pat Robertson, a presidential candidate who, in his speech, noted Bill Clinton “wants to repeal the ban on homosexuals in the military and appoint homosexuals to his administration.” The cheers were deafening, and similar sentiments were repeated throughout the event.
In 2010, the GOP lays off African-Americans and even (mostly) lays of the gays. Why? Because it no longer flies. Why? Because they’ve found their latest target.
Barack Obama is not a Muslim (not that it’d matter one iota if he were). But Republicans see the fear people have of “different”; the fear rural, conservative whites have maintained since the day of 9.11.01. So they paint Obama as one. The words are coded, but not deeply: “Radical,” “Socialist,” Etc. Where’s his birth certificate? He hates white people. Even though 95% of these people have probably never met a Muslim or follower of Islam, they don’t need to. The picture has been drawn—anti-American, plotting to blow things up, evil, untrustworthy.
A few days ago Sarah Palin, a woman unworthy of walking my dog; a woman who quit her job as governor to become a talking head, posted a Facebook list of Legitimate Questions for the President. This is what she wrote:
Mr. President, should they or should they not build a mosque steps away from where radical Islamists killed 3000 people? Please tell us your position. We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they? And, no, this is not above your pay grade. If those who wish to build this Ground Zero mosque are sincerely interested in encouraging positive “cross-cultural engagement” and dialogue to show a moderate and tolerant face of Islam, then why haven’t they recognized that the decision to build a mosque at this particular location is doing just the opposite? Mr. President, why aren’t you encouraging the mosque developers to accept Governor Paterson’s generous offer of assistance in finding a new location for the mosque on state land if they move it away from Ground Zero? Why haven’t they jumped at this offer? Why are they apparently so set on building a mosque steps from what you have described, in agreement with me, as “hallowed ground”? I believe these are legitimate questions to ask.
I wonder, why is this a legitimate question to ask? Why is it important for the sitting president to state his case on a mosque being legally built in New York City? Answer: Because Sarah Palin is the latest in a long line of Republicans using race/sexuality/ethnicity/religion to scare voters. This is the gameplan she wants to follow—essentially asking the president, Are you one of them, or one of us?
I love this country. I really do.
But sometimes I hate this country. I really do.
CALLER: Hi, Dr. Laura.
CALLER: I’m having an issue with my husband where I’m starting to grow very resentful of him. I’m black, and he’s white. We’ve been around some of his friends and family members who start making racist comments as if I’m not there or if I’m not black. And my husband ignores those comments, and it hurts my feelings. And he acts like –
SCHLESSINGER: Well, can you give me an example of a racist comment? ‘Cause sometimes people are hypersensitive. So tell me what’s — give me two good examples of racist comments.
CALLER: OK. Last night — good example — we had a neighbor come over, and this neighbor — when every time he comes over, it’s always a black comment. It’s, “Oh, well, how do you black people like doing this?” And, “Do black people really like doing that?” And for a long time, I would ignore it. But last night, I got to the point where it –
SCHLESSINGER: I don’t think that’s racist.
CALLER: Well, the stereotype –
SCHLESSINGER: I don’t think that’s racist. No, I think that –
SCHLESSINGER: No, no, no. I think that’s — well, listen, without giving much thought, a lot of blacks voted for Obama simply ’cause he was half-black. Didn’t matter what he was gonna do in office, it was a black thing. You gotta know that. That’s not a surprise. Not everything that somebody says — we had friends over the other day; we got about 35 people here — the guys who were gonna start playing basketball. I was going to go out and play basketball. My bodyguard and my dear friend is a black man. And I said, “White men can’t jump; I want you on my team.” That was racist? That was funny.
CALLER: How about the N-word? So, the N-word’s been thrown around –
SCHLESSINGER: Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is nig*er, nig*er, nig*er.
CALLER: That isn’t –
SCHLESSINGER: 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. Don’t hang up, I want to talk to you some more. Don’t go away.
I’m Dr. Laura Schlessinger. I’ll be right back.
After taking a commercial break, Schlessinger resumed her discussion with the caller:
SCHLESSINGER: I’m Dr. Laura Schlessinger, talking to Jade. What did you think about during the break, by the way?
CALLER: I was a little caught back by the N-word that you spewed out, I have to be honest with you. But my point is, race relations –
SCHLESSINGER: Oh, then I guess you don’t watch HBO or listen to any black comedians.
CALLER: But that doesn’t make it right. I mean, race is a [unintelligible] –
SCHLESSINGER: My dear, my dear –
CALLER: — since Obama’s been in office –
SCHLESSINGER: — the point I’m trying to make –
CALLER: — racism has come to another level that’s unacceptable.
SCHLESSINGER: 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.
CALLER: But I think, honestly, because there’s more white people afraid of a black man taking over the nation.
SCHLESSINGER: They’re afraid.
CALLER: If you want to be honest about it [unintelligible]
SCHLESSINGER: Dear, they voted him in. Only 12 percent of the population’s black. Whites voted him in.
CALLER: It was the younger generation that did it. It wasn’t the older white people who did it.
SCHLESSINGER: Oh, OK.
CALLER: It was the younger generation –
SCHLESSINGER: All right. All right.
CALLER: — that did it.
SCHLESSINGER: Chip on your shoulder. I can’t do much about that.
CALLER: It’s not like that.
SCHLESSINGER: Yeah. I think you have too much sensitivity –
CALLER: So it’s OK to say “nig*er”?
SCHLESSINGER: — and not enough sense of humor.
CALLER: It’s OK to say that word?
SCHLESSINGER: It depends how it’s said.
CALLER: Is it OK to say that word? Is it ever OK to say that word?
SCHLESSINGER: It’s — it depends how it’s said. Black guys talking to each other seem to think it’s OK.
CALLER: But you’re not black. They’re not black. My husband is white.
SCHLESSINGER: Oh, I see. So, a word is restricted to race. Got it. Can’t do much about that.
CALLER: I can’t believe someone like you is on the radio spewing out the “nig*er” word, and I hope everybody heard it.
SCHLESSINGER: I didn’t spew out the “nig*er” word.
CALLER: You said, “Nig*er, nig*er, nig*er.”
SCHLESSINGER: Right, I said that’s what you hear.
CALLER: Everybody heard it.
SCHLESSINGER: Yes, they did.
CALLER: I hope everybody heard it.
SCHLESSINGER: They did, and I’ll say it again –
CALLER: So what makes it OK for you to say the word?
SCHLESSINGER: — nig*er, nig*er, nig*er is what you hear on HB –
CALLER: So what makes it –
SCHLESSINGER: Why don’t you let me finish a sentence?
SCHLESSINGER: Don’t take things out of context. Don’t double N — NAACP me. Tape the –
CALLER: I know what the NAACP –
SCHLESSINGER: Leave them in context.
CALLER: I know what the N-word means and I know it came from a white person. And I know the white person made it bad.
SCHLESSINGER: All right. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Can’t have this argument. You know what? If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race. If you’re going to marry out of your race, people are going to say, “OK, what do blacks think? What do whites think? What do Jews think? What do Catholics think?” Of course there isn’t a one-think per se. But in general there’s “think.”
And what I just heard from Jade is a lot of what I hear from black-think — and it’s really distressting [sic] and disturbing. And to put it in its context, she said the N-word, and I said, on HBO, listening to black comics, you hear “nigger, nigger, nigger.” I didn’t call anybody a nigger. Nice try, Jade. Actually, sucky try.
Need a sense of humor, sense of humor — and answer the question. When somebody says, “What do blacks think?” say, “This is what I think. This is what I read that if you take a poll the majority of blacks think this.” Answer the question and discuss the issue. It’s like we can’t discuss anything without saying there’s -isms?
We have to be able to discuss these things. We’re people — goodness gracious me. Ah — hypersensitivity, OK, which is being bred by black activists. I really thought that once we had a black president, the attempt to demonize whites hating blacks would stop, but it seems to have grown, and I don’t get it. Yes, I do. It’s all about power. I do get it. It’s all about power and that’s sad because what should be in power is not power or righteousness to do good — that should be the greatest power.