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Kira Hudson Banks, Ph.D.
Kira Hudson Banks Ph.D.

Dr. Laura’s Rhetoric More Offensive Than Her Words

Dr. Laura’s Rhetoric More Offensive than her Words

There have been a number of reports following the outrageous call on Dr. Laura Schlessinger's show. Much of the discussion has centered on her use of the n-word. She has since apologized for saying it.

In my opinion, it is her rhetoric, more so than her language that is problematic.

Rather than focus on the caller's question, she gets defensive and begins spewing her frustration. She states that it's "hilarious" that "we've got a Black man as president and we have more complaining about racism than ever." This comment is mostly in response to her deeming the caller hypersensitive. So rather than calmly explain to the caller, Jade, that in her opinion, her husband's friends were not being racist, Dr. Laura minimizes and invalidates the woman's experience.

It's unfortunate that we have to continue to remind people that the act of one man (Obama) unfortunately does not erase the racial disparities that persist. Black babies did not miraculously stop dying at higher rates compared to White babies the day Obama was inaugurated. Trends such as infant mortality rates are one example of the myriad of problems that Obama being in office did not remedy. Individual acts of racial triumph do not result in the amelioration of institutional racism.

As the call continues, Dr. Laura seems to suggest that if someone asks "Do Black people really think x?" or "Why do Black people do y?" the caller should be willing to engage in the conversation. Despite an empty caveat that one does not exist, she continues to assert that there is a "Black think." She instructs Jade to simply refer to a poll of Black people when answering such questions. Seriously? I'm not sure where to begin with this one, except that counseling 101 would remind Dr. Laura to listen to her caller. We don't get enough information from Jade to understand the true nature of these questions. Dr. Laura seems to assume they coming from a place of pure curiosity. Yet Jade is clearly experiencing them as antagonistic.

Dr. Laura treats Jade as if she is certain Jade is misinterpreting the interactions. She extrapolates this misinterpretation and maps it onto what she sees as Black people being hypersensitive. And she continues her messy tirade by accusing Jade of taking her out of context: "Don't NAACP me." At this point, it is clear that Dr. Laura is not only talking to Jade, but she is bringing into the "room" all of her own "stuff" about race.

These excerpts sums up why the problem with Dr. Laura is beyond the words she is using. After the call ends, Dr. Laura is ranting and declares "we have to be able to discuss these things. Discuss the issue." Well, she certainly did not serve as an exemplar nor did she facilitate a conversation about the issue. She shut the conversation down by being defensive, condescending and off-topic.

Cultural competence is not only a key aspect of psychology, but it is becoming a necessity for navigating our increasingly diverse society. Knowing our blind spots is key when it comes to sensitive topics such as race. And Dr. Laura appears to have some baggage to process before she is quick to invalidate another person's experience of racial discrimination.

About the Author
Kira Hudson Banks, Ph.D.

Kira Hudson Banks, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of psychology at Illinois Wesleyan University.

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