What I Did When My Child Heard the N-Word

Ebony's Shawn Taylor explains how he adjusted the "race talk" with his daughter after she heard someone hurl a racist slur at him. 

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Ebony's Shawn Taylor explains how he adjusted the "race talk" with his daughter after she heard someone hurl a racist slur at him.

At nearly 5, our daughter is culturally anchored. She's eaten the food, heard and sang the songs, been with family, traveled, and has been exposed to the languages. She has never been, or never will be, one quarter anything. She is 100 percent of all the cultural groups that conspired to bring her into the world. So when she witnessed her father's cultural pride and confidence momentarily obliterated by an overtly racist act, it was all I could do to not, as the kids say now, "go bad."

There's no reason to get into specifics about how racism and prejudice entered my child's life -- I've detailed it thoroughly in another essay. I will offer that it involved the word "ni**er" and the accusation of me harming a (White) child, when I was actually assisting the child because she was hurt. While my child had never heard "ni**er" before, she knew that it was powerful because she saw Daddy cry after the aforementioned incident.

When she asked, "What does it mean, Daddy?" I was stuck between shouting: "It means nothing! Don't you dare hold that word! Forget it!" and "It means everything! I want you to hold on to this word. I want it to start a fire in your gut. Never let it go out. You have to be ready to unleash that fire at a moment's notice. 

Read Shawn Taylor's entire piece at Ebony.

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