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An Open Letter to Dr. Laura

08/24/2010 10:26 am 10:26:07 | Updated May 25, 2011

So you object to the double standard that African-Americans can use the n-word, but whites can't.

Dr. Laura, get over it.

Not all double standards are equal. Everyone accepts there's a different standard for what teenagers can do and what adults can do. We expect policemen to be more observant of the law than those not charged with enforcing it. Doctors who smoke cause us to shake our heads, and we tend to be surprised when psychiatrists have nervous breakdowns. Obese nutritionists give us more pause than just plain overweight people.

Other double standards are just blatantly unfair. There's no reason a woman should be paid less for doing exactly the same job as a man -- I'm sure, Dr. Laura, you'd object to a "Dr. Leonard" making more than you do with the same ratings, for example. But ethnic groups being able to address each other in a way those outside the group cannot is not one of those unfair double standards. It's no different than a sibling calling his younger brother "a little brat" but leaping to his defense when the bully down the street uses it. Surely a therapist -- even an ersatz one like you -- can understand that.

In prison, I heard black men use the n-word with other constantly. I admit it got tedious, but mostly because the degree of repetition rendered it a bit toothless. One thing that we've come to recognize as a culture is the power of black vernacular to convey emphasis. "You go, girl" (or "boy") can be heard out of the mouth of practically anyone these days; similarly "no you di-dn't!" and a host of other expressions. Used affectionately between two black people, "ni**er, please!" imparts a quality of bemused indignation that simply has no equivalent. Sometimes I admit I'm a little jealous. And judging by your positively orgasmic repetition of the word, so are you.

But we don't get to say it. I'm a gay man who can tease a friend that's he's being a big queen. It's offensive if you try it. Tony Soprano can call his cousin a "guinea." You can't. And black people can use the n-word with each other and only other black people get to object to it. Neither of us get a say in their argument.

You and I share the same skin pigment with people who used the n-word to describe those they treated like inferiors. Sometimes they used it while lynching them. We may share none of their racist sentiments, but it matters all the same. It's a question of respecting what black people have endured in this country. We need to just keep our mouths shut when it comes to using a word with so much historical baggage. It is simply not our place.

And another thing. You also said: "I really thought that once we had a black president, the attempt to demonize whites hating blacks would stop, but it seems to have grown, and I don't get it." So what exactly do you think the correct reaction to whites hating blacks is? If not demonization, what sentiment do you recommend, "Doctor?"