Someone called my son a n****r yesterday.
He asked us after Family Home Evening what the word meant. Repeated it so innocently, wondering why someone would call him a name he didn't even know the meaning of. Once we told him -- that's a word from very bad times when people used to hate people with brown skin, and no one should ever, ever call you that word -- he backed right off. And this is a child who delights in certain other cusses -- repeats them with gleeful abandon.
(He especially loves the word ass, ever since one of his afterschool program teachers unthinkingly played the kids the song "1985" by Bowling for Soup. Silly me, I thought it might help demystify the whole thing if I explained the lyric "She was gonna shake her ass on the hood of Whitesnake's car." I even played the kid a Whitesnake song. It didn't help.)
We told Sam that if it happened again, we needed to hear about it. That we would help. My friend V has been through this a couple of times before -- talked to the principal at her kids' school in semi-rural northern Utah. The principal talks to the parents of the little offenders. I think that's a good plan. I'd like to think that most parents are not the source of this kind of language, that they would want a chance to counteract what their kids are almost certainly getting from TV, movies, music and so on. And if the parents are teaching this garbage, I hope and pray they are duly and deeply shamed.
Sam doesn't know the kid who called him the N word. He wouldn't tell us whether it was at school, on the bus, or at the afterschool program. He is an internal processor. Once he had the information he wanted from us, he retreated to his room to play with his brother. It makes me glad he has a sibling who shares his African American heritage, at least in part.
That sibling -- Abe is only almost 5 -- picked up on the theme. He came in and told us about "Saint Luther King" and how all children of all colors should play together. Blessings on the heart and mind of a four year old child.
This is a first for us. But it's a day we've always known would come, something we knew we couldn't shelter our kids from forever.
I'm just sad that it arrived. I was hoping it wouldn't be so soon.