Friday, June 21, 2013

Who Hasn't Ever Said That Word? PLENTY of Us!

NEW YORK (AP) — Paula Deen should hope for more fans like Jennifer Everett of Tyler, Texas, who carried a shopping bag filled with $53 worth of merchandise from the celebrity chef's Georgia store on Thursday. A day earlier, it was revealed that Deen admitted during questioning in a lawsuit that she had slurred blacks in the past. 
"Who hasn't ever said that word?" Everett said. "I don't think any less of her. She's super friendly. She's a warm person who wouldn't hurt a fly."*

I haven’t ever said that word, Jennifer—and I take monumental offense at your assumption that such a vile racial epithet might roll off people’s tongues like a benign adjective. Using the Lord’s name in vain or dropping the F-bomb is one thing; those unfortunate word choices speak to poor judgment, a bad day, or lousy manners. But referring to a fellow member of our human race by a hateful, derogatory term that is universally recognized as a slur is a choice, not an accident, and it speaks directly to contempt.

I find that word so offensive I could not even bring myself to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to my children. Though I encouraged them to read that wonderful book for themselves when they were older, I simply could not say that word aloud—even within a literary context.

I have used it once in print—in a poem based on a conversation that left me staggered. If it is difficult to imagine any educated, ethical person willfully uttering that ugly word, it is impossible to imagine hearing it used against your own child. Reading this poem still brings tears to my eyes as I ache for the pain my friend suffered.

Parameter

She is a gentle woman—pretty,
with a sweet smile that is honest and warm.
We would be friends if we had the time
but we don't and so we are 
barely more than acquaintances— 
except that she comforts my mother 
when I am not there, 
soothes her in the night,
wipes the oatmeal from her chin.
And because even though 
she has to do those things—it is her job—
she does not have to do them
with love, and so I love her.
I do not know her favorite color 
or her childhood heroes,
but I know she adores her children,
enjoys her job, and loves to laugh.
She is a loyal friend, busy mother,
with a beautiful son and compassionate heart.
I think of us as alike until she tells me a story one day
and I am aware that no matter how many tears 
I might shed for her pain, I can’t know her pain;
no one will ever call my child "nigger."

From She of the Rib (CRM Books, 2006)

No, Jennifer, every one has not ever said that word, and there is no apology—however heartfelt it may be—that can remove the stench from the tongues of those who have. 


No comments: