Tuesday, July 11, 2006

It's not a tumah!


This post is about my first experience with racism. I was at five years old, at the day care center where my dual income family often left me. I really loved that day care center, the ladies that worked there were so sweet, and we sometimes we would do jazzercise tapes to stay in shape. But I digress...

So I'm at the day care center getting my play on at the water station. There was a reading station, water station, craft station, etc. So I'm playing with the toys in the water and there is this other kid across from me. He wasn't a regular like me, I think his parents had brought him there so they could have a date night or something. Anyhow, we're both at the water station and this is the conversation that occurs:

Him: Do you know the terminator?
Me: Yeah.
Him: What's his name?
Me: Uh...the terminator?
Him: No, his real name.
Me: Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Him: That's what you are.
Me: (confused) What?
Him: (getting exasperated) His last name! That's what you are.
Me: (pausing while I get it) Oh.

And...scene.

I never told anyone that that happened, like the ladies at the child care, or my parents when they came to pick me up. I don't know why, but I think the fact that I remember it so vividly over 20 years later is a sign that it had some sort of impact on me. I'm wondering how I knew what a n*gger was at the age of five. I'm guessing my parents had already filled me in.

I'm also wondering what white people think about that word and who uses it. How often do you hear it? Can you remember the first time? Is it a word you think only uneducated people use? Is it acceptable in the context of telling a joke? Or by older people who don't know any better? Is it a word you've never heard in your presence before? These are the things I would like to know...

8 comments:

  1. why do you think racism exists in the world?

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  2. Crazy but good story ... I honestly do not understand how people can speak so crass to others. Is racism still as blunt and open as it was 20 years ago? Do we really think we have gotten beyond it? Is it an education thing? I don't get how we can live segregated lives?

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  3. jdlongmire4:21 PM

    wow - neat blog - I am a southern white christian male and grew up deep in the heart of racism (Mississippi) - I vowed to not let my children use racial words or stereotypes.

    My success in this - and I deem it success - is that my children (8 and 10) did not even know what the "n" word meant until they were 6 or 7.

    We do our part to keep that word - but not the lessons of it's history out of our home.

    Peace in Christ,

    -JD

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  4. wow - neat blog - lot's of potential - I am a southern white christian male and grew up deep in the heart of racism (Mississippi) - I vowed to not let my children use racial words or stereotypes.

    My success in this - and I deem it success - is that my children (8 and 10) did not even know what the "n" word meant until they were 6 or 7.

    We do our part to keep that word - but not the lessons of it's history out of our home.

    Peace in Christ,

    -JD

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  5. "Nigger" is among the racial slurs I was taught to never say. It's the kind of word that makes me cringe, and automatically think "racist" if I hear a white person say it. When rap, and hip hop music became mainstream, and the word was used in every sentence, by black people, it made me angry for awhile. It irritated me that the same word, I, as a white person, would be tarred, feathered and labeled for using, a word I thought had nearly been eradicated from the English language, was enjoying a revival from the very people it was directed against. Now I wonder if the black community included this word in their every day vocabulary in order to take the sting out of it?

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  6. Why does anyone see people in color anyway?! Thank God we don't all look alike or this would be one boring world. Who cares what color anyone is? How in the world did racism ever become a problem. I know my sister faces it in South Africa but because she is the minority. Now she lives in a black community. I think no matter where you go, you will find it. In Heaven, there will be no such thing because God created all men equal.

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  7. I jumped to this post from today's post. Wow...at FIVE YEARS OLD?! I'm so sorry that happened to you.

    I just don't really remember seeing anyone other than white hoosiers until I was about eight or nine years old. I don't remember thinking anything other than the person had dark skin.

    I can recall hearing other black people calling one another the 'n' word just as much as I can recall hearing hoosiers call black people the 'n' word. I really don't hear it very often.....can't even remember when I heard it last. Maybe while watching television which is still unacceptable but filtered out more readily.

    Either way, I think it's unacceptable.

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  8. Sabria12:55 PM

    I grew up hearing it in my segregated Black community all the time. I wasn't allowed to use it, but I heard it every day. I do think the word was adapted to take the sting out of it.
    When I was in the sixth grade, I was sent (on a trial pilot program) to the opposite side of Cleveland for summer school. It was a voluntary thing. They wanted to offer us Speed Reading and Typing at an all-white school system; subjects that weren't even offered in inner city Cleveland. Well, I was one of the lab rats who volunteered to go there. That pilot program wasn't well thought out. Mayfield Heights High School students terrorized us! I was called n*gger and it really stung! I never used the word again, unless I was quoting an idiot; and I considered those who regularly used the slur idiots... even when they were family members. When I was an air traffic controller, I admit that I called another white (and highly irritatingly racist) controller by that slur. He was insulted as I explained to him that one does not have to be black to be a n*gger; one merely has to behave the way he had.

    The word still stings.

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