As an english major, I have been trained to entertain words, to use them, and to bend them to form new meanings. Many of my peers feel words are words, that they carry only the meaning we give them, and for the most part I agree. However, there have been some words that I've always felt leave a bitter taste in my mouth -- words of hate, words that are meant to cut, words that cross a line. Tonight that line was crossed. Tonight, for the first time in my life, I was called the n word.
I am of mixed race, half black and half chinese. I have lived a privileged life, relatively free from discrimination. I grew up in a predominantly white suburb of fairly kind folk, and I never identified myself as substantially different. I never acknowledged either racial heritage, I never explored the extent of pain and discrimination my ancestors suffered. It wasn't until last Winter, when I took my first African American studies class, that I cried for the first time over the racial struggle we all deal with (black or white), both in the past, and today.
What happened tonight took me by surprise. It was not from the mouth of a stranger or of a white supremacist preaching hate on my campus, but from the mouth of a someone I knew. They said it with a southern accent, as they instructed me to get out of their room. But what hurt more, was that they said it in jest, jokingly and that after the fact, they felt no remorse. It was as if they deemed it as no more eventful than a trip to the dentist office or the grocery store.
Shortly after, I cried. My boyfriend sat next to me, held my hand, and let me cry. I cried out of shock, I cried because I was hurt, and I cried because I'd made it nineteen years without ever being called such a hurtful world. There have been so many people whose lives have been filled with powerful words daily.
How I will resolve the situation, I don't know. I can still taste the ice cold sting of hearing something so jarring. Words are funny that way, they can pack a powerful punch. They can make an English major, a little girl who has always loved words, cry. Tonight, wicked words made me cry.