For John Ridley, The N-Word Is A Line In The Sand

Advisory: This interview contains offensive language. Clips from Dr. Laura Schlessinger's radio show are broadcast unbleeped. One clip contains repeated use of the word "nigger."

There has been a lot of fallout from talk radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger's use of the N-word on the air earlier this week. Morning Edition commentator John Ridley talks to Steve Inskeep about his initial reaction, the use of the racial epithet and Dr. Laura's first amendment rights.

John Ridley i i

hide captionMorning Edition commentator and screenwriter John Ridley is founding editor of ThatMinorityThing.com.

John Ridley

Morning Edition commentator and screenwriter John Ridley is founding editor of ThatMinorityThing.com.

When Ridley first heard the exchange, he says, he laughed. To him, it was almost like a Monty Python routine. What bothered him was that Schlessinger seemed to luxuriate in the word. She shouldn't be mocking or belittling the problems she's supposed to be helping, Ridley says. Rather than just being offensive, the N-word served as a speed bump and drew attention to other things she said that were truly troubling, Ridley continues. He says she used phrases like "black thought," which is reductive because it suggests that all black people think alike.

When asked the same question that Dr. Laura was asked by a listener, Ridley responds that it's OK for black people to use the word because of the history of slavery and Jim Crow laws. He says it's similar to comedian Jerry Seinfeld getting away with making jokes about Jewish people. What is surprising to him, Ridley says, is that people seem surprised that we can't say everything we want all the time.

Ridley says he's upset that Schlessinger wanted to end her radio show in order, she said, to reclaim her First Amendment rights. No one is touching her rights, Ridley explains, and anybody has a right to complain about what someone else says. Her response to the controversy is a case of "you can dish it out but you can't take it," he says.

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