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Race, Decency, and Dr. Laura

Five years ago, an African-American woman called Dr. Laura (a renowned radio personality from Los Angeles, CA) to ask her what to do about her Caucasian husband who used the N-word freely around the house, around his friends and family without any regard for her. Dr. Laura told her, among other things, she was oversensitive. My response to Dr. Laura’s opinion was this:

Had the issue been about “oversensitivity,” then Dr. Laura’s position would have been understandable. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but racial epithet will never kill you. Unfortunately, this issue is not about oversensitivity or race. It is about decency. The real issue is not whether one group of society is allowed to used racial epithets when others are not, but whether such foul language has any legitimate purpose in advancing social discourse. The only prerequisite for social discourse is that we be humble, decent and civil.

Dr. Laura is there to give advice provided that her callers come with the minimum prerequisite of decency. The caller, albeit the victim, lacks such prerequisite as much as the spineless spouse and his belligerent friends.

From the pettiness and immaturity of the caller, to Dr. Laura’s egregious response, to the media’s holier-than-thou backlash, to the silly popular stand which argues that since it is OK for some to use such foul language then it must be OK for all, neither position is on point.

No one should be allowed to express themselves through obscene language – not the belligerent friends, not certain groups of people, and surely not Dr. Laura. She must refrain from such bravado when she uses such language even if it is used to make a point, because the only point she would make is to make us all question her own level of decency.

People bent on decency, do not spend their time using such foul language to express themselves nor do they put any effort debating its use or purpose. If I were in Dr. Laura’s position, I would have told the caller to call back with a problem that I can fix because there is little I can do about the lack of decency that surrounds her.

About the author

Dr. Tseday is a clinical psychologist and one of the country's leading experts in marriage, relationships, and self development. She advocates a unique and at times controversial approach to the dynamics of marriage and personal development, the necessary element for a successful relationship. Read more »

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