Last week, Dr. Laura Schlessinger violated the cardinal rule of race relations in broadcast:If you are white, you can never say the N-word in public
-- even if you are joking or making a point. Follow that rule, and even if you are a bona-fide racist, you're somehow golden. And so, given that overtly racist views are generally acceptable for public consumption as long as the N-word is not involved, it's pretty satisfying when a heretofore media-OK bigot like Dr. Laura finally slips up, uses it and puts the nail in her own coffin. Last night, she sealed the deal, telling Larry King she'd be leaving her long-running program.
Just in case you haven't heard, here's what happened: When a caller called in on her show to ask for advice on racist remarks her relatives had made, the good doctor expounded at length on the semi-related topic of how -- oh, it's so unfair -- black people are allowed to use the N-word but white people aren't. The hypocrisy! And just to prove how bullshit the custom is, Schlessinger went ahead and used that word -- 11 times.
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Predictably, response to the remarks was not positive. Why? Well, it has nothing to do with whether she's right or wrong; it's because if you are white, you cannot ever say the N-word in public. Effective racists know it, and people who are not racists don't really resent that they can't use a slur that is hateful and offensive, leaving Dr. Laura in the shrinking category of "racists who are so racist they don't even know they're racists," a distinction that will no doubt make her a folk hero among others in that category.
But here's the best part: The reason she's quitting? Not because she "blew it" (though, to her small credit, she did acknowledge that), but rather to get her "first amendment rights back" -- presumably meaning that she considers the fact that if you are white, you cannot ever say the N-word in public a violation of said rights. Here's a clarification: You can say it all you want -- just not if you want a career. She also caused everyone watching to cry a stream of sad, sad tears when she spoke of the "hate-filled diatribes" she was getting as a result of the incident. "Hate-filled diatribes." Hmm. Sounds like her whole show, really.
Of course, she doesn't intend to quit quite yet -- she said she'll do that when her contract runs out at the end of the year. We can't wait.
In our time, few non-politician public personalities have been as openly hateful, self-righteous or xenophobic as Laura Schlessinger, and even fewer have done it under the pretense of being a therapeutic practitioner -- which she is not, by the way. She's based her career on her own special form of hate -- and few endings have ever been so gleefully, poetically just.