White Kidz and The N Word

May 31, 2010

Get comfortable, this is gonna be a long one. [Caution: this post contains offensive content.]

A few weeks ago one of my dormant pet peeves was reawakened. A childhood friend of mine posted a status on facebook along the lines of “Yo fuck all yall niggas forgetin how to show respect. fuck you everyone.” Clearly this person was having a very rough day, and a few months ago I wouldn’t have said anything. But this person is white. Very white. So white that in middle school they tried to write a novel-length spin-off of Lord of the Rings with their friends as the main characters. That white.

I took a “diversity” class this past semester, and despite my initial doubts I actually learned a lot about other walks of life. My views changed in regards to race, gender, transgender, sexuality, and pretty much anything that can make two people different. It was such a radical change for me, I think, because of how blissfully unaware of the world I was in my years at BHS. And it’s fairly obvious I wasn’t the only one.

My pet peeve throughout high school was stupid middle-class white kids yelling out “yo, nigga!” in the hallways to each other. I suppose it made them feel badass and dangerous, since there’s always the risk of getting beaten up by minorities for being racist right? But, oh wait… there weren’t any minorities. The school was 99% White. Safe in their all-white school, they yelled it proudly like a badge of honor, giggling at each other shortly afterwards, amused by their badassedness. It was all sorts of irritating. I never saw that kind of stuff at UMass, and the most important thing I learned in my diversity class was learning to speak out against racism and other forms of oppression when I see it. It’s all about having the balls to say something, even if it seems small.

So now I see this white person’s status, and I decided to lecture them about not being racist. I was calm and composed, not attacking them but talking about why they shouldn’t use words associated with slavery and white supremacy, especially in a place as public as facebook. They replied, saying I should mind my own business and that if I don’t like their statuses I shouldn’t read them. I told them that, having Jewish ancestry, I would hope that they would speak up if a neo-Nazi were posting anti-Semitic statuses. I made a few more points, making sure not to be confrontational, and still they told me to mind my own business. Eventually their (white) friend who I didn’t know joined in, trying to make an argument that “nigger” is no longer offensive because HE is not offended by it. My friend made one final statement that we should both mind our own business, then deleted the entire status, comments and all.

I don’t know if I managed to make a difference in my friend’s mind, but they haven’t posted anything out of the ordinary since then. They’re honestly a good person, and I saw them recently and things seemed to be cool between us. It felt extremely rewarding to have stood up for something I believe in, even if it was just something stupid like a comment on facebook.

Bottom line: Be considerate and open-minded, but let people know when they’ve crossed the line.

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