When a Word is More than Just a Word
“You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will be as one” – John Lennon
It has been a difficult week this week, and things have not gotten better. To say I am a bit disheartened, scared, even upset (not angry but upset) is pretty accurate. Originally this blog post was going to be a humored look at my entire family (kids, parents, etc.) being sick with this damning stomach virus for 6 days and talking about my new venture into crafting things with an Etsy store in the works. However, after Tuesday night, I need to talk about something.
After gymnastics, we decided to go visit Lala at work and have dinner at Panera. We ordered our food (their broccoli cheese soup is divine) and sat down to wait. In the dining area, there was a young mother, 3 teenage girls and a teen boy (maybe 16-18 yrs.), a boy who was about 8 or 9, a boy who was about 4 or 5, and a young toddler girl. They were all over the place, the younger kids running around obnoxiously, while the mother did nothing but be on her phone or talk with the older kids casually. Whatever, I ignored it, grabbed our food, and we sat down to eat. I never let Bean out of sight, even in a place like this where we go often and Lala is nearby working…her coworkers adore Bean and always wave or give her small treats. Where we sit, I am in eye’s range of the bathroom, 10 paces away from the food counter, and less than that from the soda machine so Bean can have a bit of independence while under my ever watching eyes.
I was talking quickly to Lala when I heard the small voice, loudly say “Ni**er!”…it was the 4-5 yr. old saying it. Yes, I typed it out. Yes, that was the word that was said. No -A- at the end, just straight up what I typed. I turned around to see Bean standing there, horrified, and leaned over to ask her what was wrong. My heart sank as she told me that the 4/5-year-old had been calling her an idiot quietly as she used the soda machine. She ignored it and just kept on going with her duty. He did it again as she returned to me…. then he decided to have the 8-9 yr. old try and get her to go to their table. It was when she continued to ignore him that the younger male used that word towards my child.
Bean had no idea what that word meant, only the teasing, insulting tone he loudly used. The tables around us were whispering and gasping, jaws dropped as I turned around and walked towards the table they were at. I simply stated to the child to stop antagonizing my daughter and not speak to her at all, I took Bean’s hand and walked towards the counter where A (Lala’s coworker) asked if I was okay. I told her what was said and was suddenly approached by the teen girls and mother, making excuses and telling me they could not control the younger males. My reply was this:
“That word is vile and not in our vocabulary. For a child to know that word so young they learned it somewhere. It makes me sick to think about that word being used and if you can’t control them keep them home.”
I had a talk with Bean tonight and explained that dreaded word. I told her what it meant and how it is used. I told her it is a vile and hate-filled word that has no use in the English language. No matter what anyone else says, my family never utters that word. Many of you know I am not always PC. I say the C-word for shock value, I say fuck like it is a normal word, I rarely censor myself or music around my children. Neither of them have ever sworn in school or at a teacher. But there are a few words I make very clear that are not allowed…. the N-word, Fa**ot, and any other slang/hate words that exist. Kids are color-blind until introduced to it somewhere. She still cannot grasp why being different is bad and I only pray she keeps that belief that everyone is human and everyone deserves kindness.
As I sit here and type this, processing what happened and how I talked to Bean, I realized that I am lucky that I have never really experienced prejudice or hate the way others do. But racism, ignorance, and hate still exist today. Maybe not in your world, but it does. There is a thing that many call the white-privilege that blinds many of us to the racism that does exist. Despite the fact that many of us never see it in our back yards and only on the news or in stories….it does exist. It is hurting people every day in a way I cannot possibly fathom. Seeing the look on Bean’s face when I explained that even though we have white skin, that horrific word is sometimes used to make people feel like they are less than human and not worth anything…even worse when used in context…. was heart-shattering. It is haunting me and making me wonder if I did a good enough job in explaining things to her in a way that educated her and did not upset her more. It is haunting me that someone else may have been called that word in the direct context and broke them more.
Ironically, Monday we observed Martin Luther King, Jr. day. The 15th of January is his birthday. So I will simply end with one of his quotes because he fought for equality, standing up against hate, and ending violence. With today’s political climate and the general despair of this new president being inaugurated in a few days, I think we all can use a reminder that being kind to others is needed right now….
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.