By now, just about everyone who has an Internet or television connection has heard about what radio talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger said to the interracially married black woman who called in for advice about what to do when her white husband's friend insist on talking "black" and black issues in her presence. Dr. Laura's N-word rant has provided plenty of blogosphere fodder from every point of view.
As an interracially married black woman, I see this whole issue slightly differently than most. From where I'm standing, Dr. Laura's use of the N-word is barely relevant. After all, she's a talk show host known for being-- and indeed, expected to be--incendiary. In the world of media advice, there are really only two possible responses: controversial and politically correct. Both are geared toward generating the approval of their listeners/viewers. Neither are really in the business of actually offering useful advice--especially not to interracial families. How can they? At bottom, Dr. Laura, Dr. Phil-- and any other radio or TV "dr" currently on air-- are entertainers.
My hope is that the African American woman who called Dr. Laura knew this: and wanted to see what kind of crazy, kooky response the host would give. If that is the case (and some believe that it is) then, Dr. Laura stepped into the trap laid for her, it's all very entertaining, illustrates nothing more than our usual two-faced, black-white dialogue and I really could care less.
But my greater concern is that the caller might have been looking for real advice... and that is where I see a real issue for black and white families-- and indeed interracial families of every mixture. The fact is that, for the woman caller-- and for other mixed families-- these questions, concerns and issues come up frequently. Where can we go for advice in tricky situations involving the comments of family members and friends? Where do we get insight--not from entertainers-- but from other spouses, parents and experts who really understand the special nuances of being in an interracial or intercultural relationships?
I know there are many websites and blogs discussing these issues in one way or the other. Many who follow this blog run those sites--and are doing that work. But even though interracial marriages are on the rise, even though there millions of us, in the mainstream of American culture, we have yet to successfully aggregate our resources in ways that make us fully able to help each other. We haven't found ways to maximize our power. Instead of being able to offer each other support and solutions on the trickier aspects of integrating two (or more cultures) we end up either trying to pretend those issues don't exist, or getting "Dr. Laura-ed" into racially divided camps.
Where do we go to talk to each other candidly and honestly about the problems that confront us within our families? How do we spread the word about the existence of those experts and resources that already exist? How do we organize and disseminate information that enables interracial couples and families to navigate the tricky waters of a society that either reduces racial issues to the "N-word" or would rather pretend that racial tensions don't exist at all?
In my own searches on these questions, it seems that interracial family magazines, blogs and programs often have a short shelf life (unless they are organized around a legal issue like multiracial classification, see www.projectRace.com-- or around dating and mating). I'm not sure why that is. Do we fail to support each other? Are we unaware of each other? Are we stingy with the resources of time and money that can make or break these crucial clearinghouses? Are there still "too few" of us to make it work? Or, on some level, are also a little afraid of a real dialogue on these issues?
Personally, I don't believe that any of the above are true. I think the time is now to explore race and racism WITHIN families, not simply in terms of the family against the wider world. I'm eager to know of other sources, and eager to be involved in ways that we can provide more support to interracial couples and families. I'm eager to contribute what I know-- and to learn from others' experiences. I'm eager to provide real knowledge to other couples and families on exactly what works when friends and family members bring racial tensions-- or when they happen within the home.
If not us--those of us who have been and are "in the trenches"-- who? No one deserves to be "Dr. Laura-ed"--and that's exactly what will continue to happen unless we can find a better platform to share our stories and strength with each other.