Most black people remember the first time they heard the word “nigger,” and it’s rarely a fond memory. For Shawn Taylor, he writes in Ebony that he was with his daughter when someone used the word toward him and burst the bubble he’d created to keep hate speech away from his child.
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.” But I did not have the presence of soul to say anything other than that timeworn parental go-to: “I’ll tell you when you become a big girl.” And like the remarkably resilient child she is, she promptly (or so I thought) forgot. But as I stated, negative race attitudes are known to flare up like social herpes.
Read Shawn Taylor’s entire piece at Ebony.
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