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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The case for one word

I did not sleep well last night for several reasons. One, I have been going through this "hot" phase where I am comfy in my bed all snug like a bug and then I wake up an hour later feeling like I am roasting in the pits of hell. Two, I could hear my husband snoring THROUGH MY EAR PLUGS. The man has a whole village in his sinus cavity that only comes out to play at night. Beyond that I had something on my mind.

It hit me that I am a giant chicken. Big time. I am normally a pretty up front type of girl. I will generally tell you if you are acting like an asshole. I figure I am doing it for the good of humanity. However, there is one thing people can do in front of me and I will not say a word. It is use the N word. I personally don't use it. I think it's foul and ignorant. I think that applies to all races. I don't give a shit that a black person using it is considered ok. I think if you use it, you are stupid and clearly need a history lesson. I also do not agree with those people who very calmly and seemingly with much thought explain the to Yankee that is me that "Well, I don't hate black people. There are black people and then there are N words. White people can be N words." Let me tell you why that is the stupidest statement ever to hit. First off all, any white person who is called that would laugh because the word does not have the same power or connotation when flung in our directions as it does when spoken to someone that has some melanon in their body. So let's just let that ridiculous argument go, ok? Don't qualify your use of that word by stating that you only use it on those who, in your estimation, deserve it.

There are people in my life who use this word frequently. Namely, our good friends and my in-laws. Rampantly. Yesterday I had to sit there while our friends were incredibly amused while their son was telling us a joke that he learned in his CHRISTIAN school that included the use of the N word. Everyone except me found this amusing. I did not laugh but did I say anything? Nope, I just sat there like a dork and looked out the window. What does that make me? Obviously a chicken but what else? It's condoning it, isn't it? It's making those around me think that, while I may not use the word, I don't mind if they do. But I do mind. I mind a lot. If you want to call people ignorant words, please do not do so around me. I find it rude and worse than that, I find you completely stupid and ignorant that the only word you can think of to express a certain level of dislike is that one word.

What really got me thinking about this is the idea that these same people will one day think it's ok to use this word in front of my child. Will I be the same chicken shit that I am now? Will I just take my child aside later after a family gathering or an evening with friends and say "Darlin, even though so and so used that word, if I hear it come out of your face, I will smack the freckles off your face." Ok, that might work until they decide to start thinking for themselves. At that point, I am fucked. Then when I do this fake dance of racial equality in front of my kids, one day my kids will say back to me "Mama, if you have a problem with it, why not say something?" Damn kids and their ability to form complete thoughts. What do I do then? Clearly I need to take a stand well before that. And really, if I have any sort of backbone now, I need to to it the next time it happens. The problem is that I know what will happen. I will be labeled. "Oh, she thinks she is better than us." Well, I got news for you, peeps. I do. I think I am better than you despite my very obvious shortcomings and despite my own prejudices (because we all have them and if you say you don't, let's examine that big fat lie later), I know I am better than you because I have chosen not to continue to perpetuate that nastiness. I do have a semi-decent education and I truly believe that the use of that word is just a huge sign of lack of education.

So I put this issue out to y'all. Have you all also gone though this and how did you handle it? I realize I am going to be chastised and poo-pooed by those who are in my life but I am tired of being a chicken. I am tired of being a stupid ass by proxy. I can do that so well on my own. I don't need help.

Elizabeth at 8:58 AM



at 9:55 AM Blogger Tammy said...

Some of my family uses the word too, and I hate it. If it is ever used in front of my child, I will tell that person that if that is their beliefs, that is fine, but I would appreciate it not being said in front of my child.

I would tell my child later that it is a bad word, and we NEVER say it.

at 10:08 AM Blogger Kat said...

My in-laws use the word freely and they mean it. They grew up old school and well, it's just too late to change them. I have gotten my point across without confrontation and without labels (That I know about) by sort of mimicking what they are saying and putting emphasis on black. It's gotten so that the use of the N word around me is rare if not completely absent. Now, I know it really should be african american, but guess what? They ain't all african.

at 11:28 AM Blogger afdalieuroiuf said...

i am SO glad you wrote this! it speaks to EXACTLY how i feel. my grandparents say the word often, and sometimes even after they've just returned home from Church! they visited my house recently, and i promised myself that if they (or anyone else, for that matter) EVER uses that word (or some other equally derogatory and stupid term), i would calmly explain that i do NOT allow that term spoken in my house. if they say it in front of me elsewhere (and sometimes they do it just to see me react!!! and then laugh at me and say it again!!!), i shake my head, look away, and say something like, "ahhh, i really don't want to hear that...."

at 12:50 PM Blogger Texas_Ivy10 said...

My dad is teh worst one for using racial slurs. My mom always hated it... mom forbade the use of any racial slur by us kids. She couldn't stop dad, but she sure and the hell could knock the shit out of us for saying it... which is/was a good thing. When I began having children, I threatened my father with a beating if he ever spoke that way around my children. He has been very good over the years... I don't know a whole lot of people who use the N word or any other racial slang really.

at 1:54 PM Blogger Football Widow said...

I have been around people who have said it and not said anything about it b/c I'm not around them that often. I have though encountered some people that I am with quite often that say Godd****t. I cannot stand that and will ask them to please refrain from saying that in front of me. I imagine I will do the same thing for the N word and others when my child is old enough to understand what they are saying.

I've learned that when it comes to your kids you have to stand up for your beliefs even if it means alienating some friends and family. But I also think that there is a nice way to explain to your friends and family your reasons for feeling that way and asking them nicely to comply with your wishes. Hopefully they will understand it it won't cause a huge problem.

at 6:12 PM Blogger Julia said...

Saying something privately is sometimes more effective (and certainly easier!) than confronting an entire room.

My grandmother has never said the N word in front of us, but sometimes she uses other expressions that remind you she was raised in the south in the 30s. I finally told her one day while we were driving somewhere by ourselves that she was a very classy grandmother, but that I didn't think her expressions were very classy. At least around me, she doesn't say these things any more.

at 4:06 PM Blogger Nap Queen said...

Great post, SFG. I am the same way. I hate it, but don't speak up. I grew up with a Grandma the used the n word and called Mexicans lazy, etc... My mom teaches english to foreign people so you can bet how that went over. I don't remember my parents talking to us about it, but I know that saying the n-word was like yelling out FUCK. We knew it was bad. To this day that work makes me cringe every time.

at 5:43 PM Anonymous Brownsavvy said...

Hi, As an African American, the word is extremely offensive, racist and hateful. Anyone who uses the word in speech or written is ignorant. The word is not funny. It has a long history in slavery and even still shocks me that people use it. The fact that I live in Jefferson Parish (like you) and for you to know people who uses the word "frequently" scares me. Racism is ALIVE AND WELL. It's really sad and frightening. When we ever learn?

at 1:14 AM Anonymous asterismos said...

Your family and friends should definitely respect your wishes in not using that word around your (soon-to-be) children. It is hard to try to improve/ignore someone else's ignorant vocabulary though and I feel for you.

My grandmother used to use this word and not just as a whsiper; she would state it loud and clear for most EVERYONE in the room to hear. I struggled with this and chose to remain quiet out of respect for my elder and because it caused problems between my mother and I. I also do not think you are being chicken but are choosing to stay quiet until you have the perfect opportunity to let your grief be heard.


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