Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What You Intend Does Not Matter: Dr. Laura Edition

We have become a country where the speaker too often has lost the upper hand to the interpreter. That is, what we say and what me mean has become irrelevant to people who are willing to, in bad faith, misinterpret what is being communicated so that the interpreter can vilify the speaker for what he or she never uttered.

It is this sad state of affairs that allowed John Wiley Price the platform from which to call a fellow Dallas County Commissioner a racist for using the term "black hole" in a meeting.

This is how Bill Bennett was attacked for supposedly championing eugenics when he did no such thing, how Rush Limbaugh was attacked for his racism when he is no racist, and how the use of the word niggardly can be reason enough to get a person excoriated. None of these well documented situations in any way signify a racist attitude on the part of the speaker, yet mean spirited interpreters were allowed to completely twist the words of the utterer into a misshapen dialog that was then used as a reason to attack the speaker.

The results of such verbal acrobatics is a stifling of honest debate on a topic that, as Eric Holder wass quick to point out, we are cowards for not addressing.

We can add Dr. Laura Schlesinger to the list. During a conversation with a caller last week Dr. Laura said this:

SCHLESSINGER: Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is nigger, nigger, nigger.

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.
Is this the type of conversation that Eric Holder was calling for when he accused us of cowardice on race relations?

I think it is. And yet, Schlesinger is being pilloried. She is not being attacked for the intent of her comments but rather because she is a conservative and, because of her card-carrying inclusion within that group, her comments are being intentionally misinterpreted to expose an erstwhile unknown latent hostility toward blacks.

Charges of racism are used more often to silence well-intentioned non racists than they are to expose and attack true racists.

Schlesinger is packing in her radio show over the incident effective at the end of the year (if protesters don't get her sacked prior to that time.) Hey, that is the free market and if protesters can influence businesses through withholding money to advertisers, more power to them.

If we are ever going to arrive at a post-racial society we'd all better learn to listen honestly to what other people have to say. Otherwise Eric Holder will have every reason to point his finger at us again in the future.

2 comments:

stonehands said...

"We have become a country where the speaker too often has lost the upper hand to the interpreter. That is, what we say and what me mean has become irrelevant to people who are willing to, in bad faith, misinterpret what is being communicated so that the interpreter can vilify the speaker for what he or she never uttered."

Classic!
Can I quote you on that?

Rougman said...

You make me blush...