Nigger

nigger

Nigger: (Merriam Webster) A Black person.

(Urban Dictionary) A word that everyone else is afraid to define except in utter seriousness, for fear of being branded a racist, in total ignorance of the colloquial usage of the word, its characterization in popular culture, and the populations of people it is used most by.

When I was a kid I used to ice skate. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago so almost every kid participated in a winter sport. I took lessons at a community sports center and every year, twice a year, they put on ice skating shows. In the winter time it was always, “The Nutcracker” and in the spring the theme of the show varied. Not only did I ice skate, but a lot of my friends ice skated as well.

One winter, when I was seven-years-old, I and a few friends of mine participated in, “The Nutcracker”. Although I lived in a pretty progressive neighborhood, there still were only a hand full of Black kids that ice skated or played hockey. Needless to say, most of the Black kids hung out with each other after skating class or off the ice.

On this particular day, a friend and I (my friend was Black as well) were hanging around backstage during “The Nutcracker” while we waited for our groups to go on. I was finishing up some homework while my friend was listening to music and playing cards. No one else was in the dressing room except for us. After about twenty minutes of my friend and I sitting in the dressing room by ourselves, two more girls walk in. Both of these girls were the same age as us and we also happened to be skating in the same group for the show. However, both of these girls were Caucasian. When the girls came in they immediately began to laugh and talk loudly, throw things around the dressing room, and just generally act obnoxious.

I was still doing my homework when the other girls walked in so when they began to get loud I asked them politely to keep it down. I was met with confrontation. “You aren’t the boss of us.” one girl replied. “We can do whatever we want and there is nothing you can do about it.” replied the other. One of them began bouncing a ball against the wall over my head in order to instigate the situation further. Once again, I asked them politely to stop and leave my friend and I alone. No response from them. My friend could see that I was getting irritated. I could have left the dressing room, but since I was trying to do my homework in a quiet place, it didn’t make sense for me to leave because outside was even noisier.

Suddenly, my friend stood up and snatched the ball from the girl that was throwing it above my head. “WE HAVE ASKED YOU NICELY TO KEEP IT DOWN” my friend reiterated. “Who are you talking to?” one of the Caucasian girls asked my friend. I stood up immediately as I sensed a storm brewing. “She was talking to you.” I replied. Almost instantly one of the girls pushed me and said, “You’re just a nigger. We don’t have to listen to you.” The next think I know, my hand was hitting that girl’s face. Everything happened so fast. I knew this situation wasn’t going to end well. Everyone ran off. My friend ran in one direction, the two Caucasian girls ran in a different direction, and I just stood there for a second not knowing what to do. I went back to doing my homework. Never in my life had I actually been called that word before. I didn’t know how to feel or what to think. All I knew was that I was angry and I was scared. I knew I shouldn’t have hit that girl in the mouth, but she called me the N-word. I knew I was about to be in trouble even though I had every right to beat that girl’s ass. (That’s debatable, I know.)

A few moments later I was met in the dressing room by the two girls, one of their mothers, and a security guard. A SECURITY GUARD. I was seven. SEVEN. I was shitting bricks like you couldn’t believe. And of course these two girls were telling this mother a dramatic exaggeration and flat out lie about the events that had just taken place. One of the girls told the security guard that I pulled her hair and spit in her face and called her a bitch. As I was listening to this all I could think to myself was, “I wish I would have done all of that.” Then the security guard grabs me. A seven-year-old mind you. Just as the security guard is “escorting me off the premises” I see my friend, my grandma and my ice skating coach.

First of all, what adult in their right mind grabs a child and 1). “escorts them off the property” without attempting to locate their parents or guardian? 2). believes the words of two kids and their mom without getting the other side of the story from others who were there? 3). tries to resolve a conflict by kicking a child out of a building? As soon as I saw my grandma and my coach, I broke down into tears and screamed out, “They called me a NIGGER!” Everyone got dead silent. My friend was standing next to me like, “YUP! And I heard it too!” Immediately my coach snatched me from the security and began to yell at her for grabbing me and not trying to find my parent. My grandmother started going off on the mom and the girl that tried to lie about everything began to cry because her friend told the truth. Never in my life (up until that point) had I been so humiliated, scared, upset, confused, etc. The girl’s mother couldn’t even look me in the eye. I mean, the girl who called me the N-word was seven-years-old too, so one could only assume that she knew how to properly use that word because an adult in her house taught her how to do so.

The very next day our skating coaches made us apologize to each other. Although the girl never explicitly apologized for calling me the N-word, I was the bigger person and apologized for hitting her. Everyone went on their separate ways like nothing ever happened and life went on. No one ever mentioned, explained, or commented on the fact that I just had my first racial encounter. I don’t know if it was because no one knew exactly how to have that conversation, or if no one wanted to have that conversation because they didn’t feel it was a big deal. It reminds me of this country and its race relations today. No one wants to openly admit that this country has a problem with racism. It’s easier for us to just sweep racism under a rug or plead ignorance when the topic does come up. I think the first step to ending racism in this country is to be open and honest about it. Let’s not act like it doesn’t happen. Let’s be upfront and call it out. From there, we can gain a better understanding of where the racism stems from and how to resolve the cause.


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