By Mark Lee
Northwest Asian Weekly
Back in August, radio talk show personality Laura Schlessinger ended her radio show after using the N-word 11 times in response to a Black female caller. The caller had complained that friends and family members of her white husband made racist comments in her presence.
Schlessinger said there is a double standard whereby Blacks can use the N-word but whites cannot. She went on to say the word over and over again.
Within a week, Schlessinger said she was not going to renew her contract at the end of the year. She offered some ridiculous, dishonest explanation about how she was making a philosophical point and she wanted to be able to exercise free speech without being muzzled.
Schlessinger was not making some deep philosophical point. She was intentionally being offensive just to get attention. Years ago, on a prior show, she had made the comment that gays are a biological mistake. As a result, numerous companies pulled their ads from the station. This time, after saying the N-word, more protests occurred. Eventually, enough pressure was created to cause her to end the show.
Defenders of Schlessinger will always argue that what she said was not a big deal and if people don’t like it, they are being too sensitive and politically correct. What these people really mean is that they want minorities to put up with racism so racist people can get away with being racist. Schlessinger going down was good riddance. It shows that you can get justice if you fight for it.
Another example of this occurred when Yoko Ono confronted an obnoxious reporter back in August when he asked why she was still living in the Dakota apartments that she and John Lennon had lived in. Ono had been giving a press conference about a new documentary about Lennon when the question came up.
Ono responded by saying, “I think people say, ‘Why are you still living on Dakota?’ You know, I think it is a slightly racist remark, and maybe sexist, too. Because I’m sure that many people are living in their own home that he or she shared with their spouse, even after the spouse has passed away — especially because they passed away. Because there are a lot of memories, and also you built the place with the spouse. I’m not going to leave that and go to some strange house.”
Like anyone else, Ono has a right to live where she wants, and the reporter was being rude in asking the question. After she married Lennon, Ono became the target of racists who tried to blame her for breaking up The Beatles. She has probably gotten very fed up with racism. Although the reporter did not make any direct references to race, he might have felt that he could be rude to Ono because of race. She confronted him about it.
The Beatles were together back in the 60s when society was much more idealistic. I am 51 years old, so I went to college during an era when the spirit of the times reflected leftover pieces of idealism from the 60s.
The election of Ronald Reagan, combined with his charm and acting skills, did much to change the way our society thinks as a whole. Nowadays, “greed is good” and there is not much interest on college campuses in fighting oppression or changing the world to make it a more just place for everybody. Maybe some of these sentiments are just naïve. But they represent a starting point to set goals for positive change.
One of the sentiments that existed, to some extent, when I went to college, was the feeling of a shared struggle between Asians and Blacks. When I was in college, I was invited by a Black instructor from Philadelphia to participate in an all Black martial arts class. The instructor had adopted the name of an African warrior to reflect pride in his heritage. Nowadays, we read about Asians being the scapegoats in Philadelphia for racial attacks by some of their Black classmates.
The 60s are now ancient history. People that were young adults back then are now heading toward being senior citizens. Although many things have changed, a lot of the same issues still exist today. The present economic crisis is, to some degree, a result of the materialism that was rebelled against back in the 60s. In spite of the passage of time, we can still learn lessons from the ideals of that era. ♦
Mark Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.