It seems that Laura Schlessinger (please don’t call her
Dr in this context; it’s misleading) is leaving her radio show, the result of an incident in which she spewed a bad thing to call black people repeatedly at an African-American caller. She’s given us her opinion of homosexuals before (she thinks they’re
deviant and that homosexuality is a
biological error), and now it’s clear what she thinks of people with
enough melanin, as she put it. I’ll certainly not miss her presence, though I have no illusion that she’ll stay gone.
But here are two things we should keep in mind about what she’s saying:
First, this is her justification for her use of the offensive word:
Black guys talking to each other seem to think it’s O.K. 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.
Right. I’m to believe that a woman with her education is that naïve? No, that’s too much of a stretch. She knows quite well that it does matter who says it, and in what context. A black man saying it to another black man on the street is one thing. A privileged white woman saying it is another. Someone saying it on a radio talk show is another, too. And a privileged white woman saying it on her radio show, well, that’s quite another. She damned well knows that; she gets it, and it’s disingenuous of her to say,
What? What’d I do?
Second, she’s complaining that her first-amendment rights are being violated when people complain and sponsors pull their ads:
I want to regain my First Amendment rights. 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 and attack affiliates, attack sponsors. I’m sort of done with that.
She has her first-amendment rights; she’s never lost them. Witness: she’s out on the street, free. She’s free to call people bad names again, today, tomorrow, next month. No one has arrested her, and no one will. The first amendment protects us from legal trouble.
Congress shall make no law, it says, and that’s been extended to state legislatures and other contexts, with some limited restrictions.
The first amendment, though, doesn’t protect us from the social response to what we say, and it was never meant to. If you say hateful things and people hate you for it, that’s on you. The first amendment doesn’t guarantee that people will want to listen to you, that sponsors will want to pay to be associated with you, nor that your employer will want you to represent them such a manner.
You’re free to say what’s on your mind and in your heart. And you have to live with the social consequences of what you say.
Of course, Laura Schlessinger is well aware of that, too.