In the category of news as entertainment fodder, Dr. Laura Schlessinger has announced she’s quitting her radio talk show in order to reclaim her First Amendment right to free speech. It’s hard to know whether to laugh aloud at that statement or question the intelligence of the woman who made it.
Schlessinger has been on the public airwaves for three decades offering her unique blend of verbal abuse and advice and now claims her right to free speech has been abridged because others have exercised their right to free speech and criticized her remarks.
Perhaps Schlessinger believes only on-air radio personalities have free speech, but not listeners. Perhaps she’s confused about the meaning of the First Amendment. What she fails to recognize is the First Amendment doesn’t protect one from the reaction to outrageous speech. We’re all guaranteed the right to spew racist, ignorant, distorted and misleading speech, just as others are guaranteed the right to point it out.
Schlessinger told CNN’s Larry King that, “I want to be able to say what’s on my mind and in my heart and what I think is helpful and useful without somebody getting angry, some special-interest group deciding this is the time to silence a voice of dissent. …”
Most of the news coverage of Schlessinger’s on-air rant has focused on her use of the n-word 11 times. But what is more revealing are other comments Schlessinger made to her caller, a black woman married to a white man.
Schlessinger told the caller that if she was “hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race.” Which seems to be another way of saying that if you’re bi-racial or black or brown and marry a white person, you must be able to laugh at and along with racist remarks. Schlessinger said she thinks it’s “hilarious” that “we have more complaining about racism than ever” now that “we’ve got a black man as president.”
Schlessinger seems to believe that electing a bi-racial president automatically, on its own, proves that all vestiges of racism have been eliminated from our society. That’s a nonsensical assumption that defies common sense. Schlessinger herself proves exactly how nonsensical with another on-air statement to the same caller: “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.”
Schlessinger isn’t the first on-air personality to mistakenly question why there’s ongoing dialogue about race after the nation elected its first black, or bi-racial, president. It seems to be a consistent refrain from those on the right who hold up Obama’s election as proof that racism no longer exists in America and then proceed to fault Obama for not producing a “post-racial” country, as if it was entirely within his power to eliminate the elements of racism we all know in our hearts still exists and some of which has been on very public display in the last two years.
But Obama never claimed his election would instantly create a “post-racial” society. Quite the opposite. In March 2008, in his speech to the nation after the explosive remarks of Jeremiah Wright were made public, Obama said this: “Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy — particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own. But I have asserted a firm conviction — a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people — that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.”
Part of the creation of a more perfect union is calling out racism wherever and whenever it appears, whether it’s statements made on the radio or depictions of witch doctors on signs held up at tea party rallies. Laura Schlessinger got called out.