“I know it’s a heavy thing, I don’t say it lightly, but this is ‘niggerization’. You are not one of us, you are like the scary black man who we’ve been trained to fear.” – Toure, MSNBC analyst in reference to Mitt Romney.
I’d like to tell you a story.
I was six years old the first time I heard the word ‘nigger’. Jamie Haney called me that on the first day of school, matter-of-factly. He wasn’t being mean. He was just expressing his amazement at the fact that he was actually looking at a black person, and he thought that’s what we were called. Jamie and I came up through school together as friends, but unfortunately he wasn’t even close to the last person to use that word in reference to me. I grew up in a place where there were no black people. In the ’80′s. I was different. An anomaly. And kids are cruel. And some adults too. I was called a nigger nearly every school day of my life until I was 16 years old. Once, my best friends and I were handing out church flyers at a local diner. An older gentleman (well, maybe 30 but that was OLD to me at the time) who was clearly intoxicated took the flyer from my hand, looked up at me and suddenly shouted “Holy Shit! What are you doing here? I thought your kind was supposed to be out picking cotton or something!” and then proceeded to crack up at his own hilarity. My friends and I clearly had no clue how to handle this (we were maybe 14 at the time); and no one came to my defense or rescue. People stared, but most just looked away in embarrassment and continued with their meals. My friends and I left. We looked at each other, wide-eyed. We were scared, but none of us said a thing. What could we say? They didn’t understand the depth of my pain and I didn’t understand their confusion or helplessness. So we went on with our day, on with our lives. And that was pretty much every day of my life in Prince Edward Island, Canada. I faced names and beat-downs each day. Sometimes I took it. Sometimes I fought back. In a school system that had no experience with minorities in the 1980′s, there was no help to be found. Teacher after teacher and principle after principle said the same thing….if it happens away from the watchful eyes of staff, there is nothing we can do. I had no choice. I endured, until I was old enough to leave; and then I left. I now live in California. Pretty much as far away as you can get from P.E.I. without leaving the comfort of the United States/Canada.
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