“Why’d you give that n***** your eraser?”Go watch. The most poignant moment for me is when mom asks if they are worried it will happen again, and the 8-year-old says, "Yes. Because I’ve already been called that so many times." It reminds me of Zoe's response when I told her I was so sorry a child at ballet had called her "Blackie" and said her skin looked dirty like it was covered with mud -- trying to make me feel better about it, she said, "I'm used to it." Like I said at the time, "How awful to be 8 years old and used to racial teasing and racial insults."
I send my two sons to school to learn, not so that they can be called racial slurs. But on Wednesday, a boy in 10-year-old Mr. O’s fifth grade class decided to make sure that the classroom was an extra welcoming learning environment. He posed the above question to another student, after that kid decided to give my son an eraser.
My son told me about it when I went to pick him up from his after school program and of course I was angry and upset, but I also felt numb. I am the mother of two black males in the United States. That means this is not the first time my boys have been called a racial slur.
I could write about how we are not post-racial and this is exhibit A of why I believe that racism is still America’s most vital and challenging issue. But it came to me that there’s something powerful about letting children–the most innocent of us all–share what it feels like to be called the n-word in class.
Last night I asked the boys if they’d like to talk about the racial slurs they’ve been called, and how it makes them feel. They were excited to share–we all know it’s cathartic to be able to share something painful that’s happened–and I’m glad that they know that they don’t have to keep the racism they face a secret or act like it’s not a big deal–or that it’s something they have to be ashamed of.
I filmed this interview with my boys before they went to sleep. . . .
Crocodile tears for immigrant children.
3 weeks ago