Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Daddy, What's the N-Word?

In the midst of writing the previous post, "Ask the Uncomfortable Question," this came through from my 6 year old daughter, a girl with French, German, Dutch, Irish, and Italian (from her momma) ancestry.  I think God has a particularly well-timed sense of humor and nudging.
C: Daddy, what's the n-word?
It's a word that was invented to hurt people with brown skin. People with our color skin used it to mean all kinds of things, but it was always mean. 
C: like what?
It meant stupid, lazy, worthless, and it meant that I am better than you. It was meant to hurt.
C: like when those boys said I had poop on my head even though I didn't?
Yes, kind of like that. But this was even meaner, and it has caused pain to many, many of our friends and neighbors.
C: but what IS the word?
So, I really don't want to say it, but I'll spell it for you.
C: but I heard Marvin say that word, was he being mean?
That's a really good question. He was not. A really interesting thing happened with that word. Brown-skinned people were tired of being hurt by the word, so they took it and used it differently sometimes. Sometimes, when a brown skinned person says it, it actually can mean "friend."
C: that's a little confusing.
It is, I know, but sometimes when people are hurt so much by something, they either decide to keep getting hurt, or to make the hurtful thing not hurt so much. It's a little like Jesus flipping death. Death still hurts, but it doesn't hold us back and it's not the end. 
C: why are there mean and confusing words like that?
Why indeed. Let's ask Marvin and Ambar and Nadia and Christian and Toni how they feel about that word and maybe they can help us understand, since they were part of that conversation tonight.
C: okay
Friends of color, feel free to grade this and send me suggestions on ways to explain or correct if I took it down an unhelpful path. When you bring your kids to presentations, sometimes you realize you need to be better prepared for the after-talks.

1 comment:

  1. Even our old dictionary describes the "n" word as an offensive derivation of the formal word describing a classification of mankind. It was and is demeaning. But the intention changes depending on the tone and the person using it. How about using the more generic "brother" or "sister", words which equalize?--less confusing . Dad