One student has been opening up about what it's like to be of color amidst a group of friends who are not. This student - I will call her "P" - is outspoken. P has no problem speaking her mind. She grew up in a community of mostly white people. Many of her friends were raised in families that supported the conservative rhetoric that diminishes black and brown voices. Her friends repeated things in her presence that were hurtful. They did not intend to say the "n*****" word around P. P's friends claimed that they did not mean to offend her. They claimed that they did not even know that it would offend her.
P explained to her white friends that saying the "n" word - or any derogatory racial slur - around her was hurtful to her.
P was able to get his friends to listen. They understood that it hurt her. But most of them did not stop doing it. And that is where P is both confused and frustrated, bordering on angry.
I shared a story with P about my wife, who is a black woman. Together, she and I are raising our children in a community that is more white than black or brown My wife's friend - a blonde, blue-eyed white woman from a family of means - perpetually pumps out inciting posts on her facebook page. The posts are divisive and argumentative. They challenge any opposing argument.
And that's fine. It's a facebook page. It's a personal opinion page. Why a business owner would pump out divisive political rants that would only repel those who would disagree with them is their business - or lack thereof.
But when your friends tell you that the posts are hurtful to them, and you still do it... well, what message does that send? And how much do you value the friendship?
P agrees. And she is doing the hard work by voicing her complaints to the source: she lets her friends know how it makes her feel. And she lets them know that she will not tolerate it.
Will P change her friends' behavior? Will P awaken more empathy amongst her white friends who don't have to worry about ever being called a "n*****" in a way that it offends every ancestor in their family tree?
The word n****** hurts people who are aware of its power and its significance. Those who toss it around in their texts or posts where their 'aware' friends will see it and be offended, are either unaware, or don't care.
In this day and age, I'm not sure how anyone can be unaware of the power of words. especially the power of racially charged words.
I was in striking distance of a woman who said they didn't understand anything about the Black Lives Movement. She argued that the election was rigged and the riots in the capitol were less damaging than any Black Lives Matter protest over the summer.
Moreover, she claimed the Black Lives Matter movement had no message; that it was basically a bunch of angry people creating chaos with no clear purpose. in other words, just another bunch of angry black people - except of course, that the Black Lives Matter movement includes and is supported by people of all colors, all walks of life, traces and religions; and it's supported internationally.
Huh. No clear message?
When asked what she thought the Black Lives Matter "mission statement" should include, she threw her arms up in the air and shook her head, baffled. It was the physical gesture equivalent of how the fuck should I know?!
In this woman's defense, it must be difficult to know what a black person in the United States might want in today's society. Right? Yes, it would be difficult to know that... if you've been living under a fucking rock!
Having not sufficiently offended people in the room, she added the quip that the number of Jews and others killed in the holocaust was inflated.
Let me repeat the claim from a self-proclaimed intellectual: "The number of humans killed in the holocaust was over-inflated."
If the Nazi's were good at anything, it was efficiency and record keeping.
Eli Weisel, the author, activist and holocaust survivor, taught us that if we see injustice we must shout!
P, you keep shouting. And so will I.
Hi. My name is Stephen Tesher. I am a writer and an educator. Most importantly, I am a father. I've authored three books, staged numerous plays and written screenplays, articles, and this blog.