The n-word came into my life when I was around 10. It came from my Grandpa and was being hurled at the TV. My cousins and I were watching The Cosby Show; and Grandpa was scoffing back laughter saying "no such thing as an n-word doctor or lawyer." I didn't know what it meant but I knew it was mean.
Decades before using my words to talk about racism was a thing, I wondered to my parents what Grandpa was talking about and why Mrs Huxtable couldn't be a lawyer. I was told something along the lines of, "That's just Grandpa. We don't talk like that but Grandpa does. And we are in his house."
So Grandpa directed these mean words towards certain dark skinned people and in his house he was allowed. Grandpa was 6'4' and usually wearing full-length blue coveralls and a silver, safari shaped hard hat. I pictured him the fe-fi-fo-fum kind of jean giant. When we visited twice a year, he emerged for short times from his work room located behind the closed door at back of the house to stomp around loudly. I was scared of Grandpa anyway so I never challenged his views. My dad didn't blame "n-words" for fumbling during Monday Night Football but Grandpa did. Enough said.
What I didn't know until years later is that multiple branches of slaveownership interweave on that side of my family. Grandpa's grandfathers were made to retire from professional slave owning when they lost the Civil War just two generations before. When Grandpa used the n-word he was saying the same things his father - my great grandfather - professed and his fathers' fathers before him. Purposeful word choices to dehumanize and define actual people while enabling and excusing the terror perpetuated by my relatives. I never heard Grandma drop the n-word but she never objected.
I was raised on a different side of whiteness than Grandpa but not on a side that would confront racist words used by the other side of the family. My parents respected Grandpa; excusing his hateful words and instructed us kids to also. Even as they chose different sides.
Childhood did not equip me to battle the racism my people invented let alone fight the police brutality that doesn't happen in my neighborhood; or put an end to the pathetic public schools that my kid doesn't go to. Or some man sounding like Grandpa speaking as my country's elected President.
I never got to talk to Grandpa about my family's legacy of racism. It feels even more shitty that honestly, I am still trying to figure out how to engage with members of my extended family about white people issues today. Like this racist pussy-grabber they helped elect. How do I bring this up with my cousin I haven't seen in two decades? I have yet to bridge the gap with some of my good friends now who have no concern how their apathy to today's political climate enables racist policy.
I will not stay silent like my foremothers before me.
I declare my mission too teach, train, and testify against white supremacy. I've been using my words and deeds to co-create a new narrative for my people. My blog posts will share what I'm learning and who've I learned from. I want to share the life hacks I've learned to circumvent capitalism and promote sustainable solutions.
Let's move forward with honest cooperation.
Welcome to my blog.
*More on "Black Friends" later. I am currently exploring and researching this term and concept. Please be patient with me knowing I use this term with intention. Please feel free to leave comments.
Krista Joan says:
My mission is to teach, train, and testify in resistance to the white supremacy of my ancestors. My personal choices are political, powerful, and practical. Let's trash waste.