If you are a regular of my Blog, then you will recall a few posts I have had under the title “When “Ocho” is a “No No” If you haven’t read them – go do it now.
Interestingly enough I actually started this post BEFORE the whole “Ocho Incident”. This has just taken some time for me to complete because it is such a sensitive subject I have wanted to be clear on my message and get it right. What I have found is there may be no “right” on this topic.
I decided to put this out there, unfinished, and solicit thoughts, comments form you…..
I had a an interesting conversation via Instant Messenger the other night with my 18 year old daughter. She is a freshman at a large university in the south and while she certainly hasn’t lived a sheltered life, she has been surprised at some of the “experiences” she has had there already.
I am not referring to drinking or the parties or even the way people act at SEC football games although the latter was eye opening for her and the former, I hope, was not something she has gotten *too* involved in.
No, I am talking about people’s attitudes toward race.
The town we live in – the same town she grew up in – is not very diverse even though we live within commuting distance of two moderate sized metropolitan cities. Even so, I believe my kids have had many experiences with people who do not look like them or do not talk like them or who believe differently than they do so as not to see people’s differences as a bad thing. Instead, I believe my wife and I have raised them to understand that these differences between people, be it color, religion, Coke drinker v. Pepsi drinker, or whatever, are what make us all interesting and worth getting to know. While my children are certainly not “color blind” they do not let a difference like that stop them from being humans.
But, sadly, this is not the case where my daughter goes to school. There are still people who openly use the “N” word. Inter-racial dating is heavily frowned upon. Minorities even practice “segregation by choice.” Again, my daughter is no more naive than any young adult (her college room mate is black and one her best friends and prom date this year is black) but given her attitudes toward race it is shocking to her to see these things are practiced so openly.
As my IM session with my daughter continued I started asking her questions about her room mate. A young girl from a small town in the south who was randomly put together with my daughter. All we knew about her when we took our daughter to school, was her name, where she was from, that she was salutatorian of her high school class, planning to major in chemistry and that she was black (our daughter had found a picture of her on the Internet.)
Since my daughter had mentioned how shocked she was that people used the “N” word so commonly, I asked her if she had considered asking her room mate what she thought of the word. We have all heard one black person call another this word but in reality how do black people really feel about the word? What does it mean to a black person? And, how is it different if a non-black uses it in the same way as a black person does?
This led to my then suggesting she ask her what slang for white people do black people consider to be truly offensive in the same way that white people view the “N” word? As I thought about what it might be (honky, cracker, red neck, whitey, bubba, ice mutant, casper) nothing really came to mind that really equaled the offensiveness of the “N” word.
So why is this?