A Letter to My Son’s School: Harmful Words

words-can-hurt

Dear Mr. Principal, Mrs. Guidance Counselor, Mrs. Teacher, and Madam Transportation Director,

Yesterday, my 4-year-old daughter was playing a video game, and asked her brother, Archoo, to help her with a difficult level. He was having some trouble, but I heard him say he was going to beat up the “niggers” and get through to the end of the level for her. Now, let me be clear about something up front. The game didn’t feature human characters of any shade; these were imaginary monster-type beings, and there was no explicit racial connotation in the use of the word in my son’s case. However, I was so dumbfounded that my innocent 6-year-old baby had even heard that word that I had to have him repeat it. Twice.

I asked him where he had learned it. He got very quiet because he was afraid that he was in trouble, but eventually, he told me he had heard it from another boy on the bus. Believe me, I understand that children can be loud on the bus. Our route is filled to the brim with kids; they sit three to a seat, and nearly half of the bus is filled on our stop. I get that the bus driver can’t possibly hear everything that every one of them says to another. However, I am pulling Archoo from the bus route. I can’t have him exposed to that sort of hateful language; I do not find it to be in his best interest to hear these things without context and without a grown-up to discourage it with education.

I am sending this email to so many recipients because I find it discouraging that the word could be uttered anywhere in the school and that nobody would respond to it with any amount of disgust, even the children. I have told my son that if he hears it again, he is to find a grown up right away, and I am sure that he will. I’m not entirely sure how you teach children about offensive/abusive words without arming them to the teeth with slurs, but perhaps this can be a learning opportunity for all of us as a school community to find a way to overcome this sort of occurrence. There are children of every shade and of many religions at School; I don’t want it to be a place where ANY such language is tolerated, let alone taught to the younger kids by the older ones. You would be receiving this email whether it had been the N-word or any other slur. I can’t imagine the backlash that would occur if Archoo used his new “vocabulary word” within ear-shot of Mrs. Teacher or one of the students of color in his class – but he didn’t know anything about the harm in using it until I tried, probably ineffectively at best, to impress it upon him last night.

I’m well aware that there is a subculture in the black community that uses the N-word openly and as some sort of affectionate term. I don’t at all share the views of these people; however, I’m also not naive. I never believed that being half-black myself, having a mixed-race family and raising my child to respect others regardless of their color, creed, orientation or status would completely shield him from words such as these. I knew he would hear them on the television, in pop music songs or on the street. I knew, one day, that we would have to talk about the N-word, the horrific connotations it carries, and the way it was used to denigrate an entire race of people. I just never imagined that he would be six when it happened and that he would hear it on the bus ride from school. My heart broke in half when I heard it from his tiny little mouth; I cried. I’m crying as I type this out. I just still can’t believe what he said.

I also have considered that this other child, who I am not really interested in naming because it’s quite possible he has no idea what he’s saying, either, had to have heard it somewhere. Maybe he heard it on the television, in pop music songs or on the street … maybe he learned it at home in a racist context, too. I can’t fathom or begin to guess how or why, but I don’t think punishment is necessarily the best course of action. I would err on the side of education were this a child in my care, just as I attempted with my own son.

Thank you for taking the time to read this email. I know that you strive, together, to make School a safe and welcoming place for our children. I feel you do a great job; you have responded with respect to my concerns in the past, and I know that you will treat this issue with an appropriate level of severity and look for ways to confront it.

– ilkaisha

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Prevailing Against Prejudice

Okay, so I’ve discovered through multiple very frustrating discussions on social media over the past few days that the use of the n-word and the racism surrounding it doesn’t need to be the topic of discussion. Apparently, we need to go back to basics and discuss something a little different.

“Prejudice: Wrote a song about it. Like to hear it? Here it go…

SO many people are trying to say that if a black person can use a word, that white people should be allowed to. Well, AGAIN, I iterate that MOST black people:
do.
not.
use.
the.
n-word. Continue reading

Nope: It’s NOT Okay for You to Say It

Today, there are two hot-button issues floating around. One is, of course, the overturning of DOMA. What a huge step in the direction of equality for all! I am truly thrilled by this court ruling, and I’m glad that the obstructionists weren’t successful in further justifying discrimination against a group of citizens who deserve equality. The other hot topic surrounds Paula Deen and her use of racial slurs to identify black people. Race is an issue I honestly can’t believe that we still need to discuss in 2013, but it is what it is, I guess. I’ll be tackling DOMA in a blog post tomorrow. Today, I’m going to answer the following question, posed by my dear friend Merry, from …And Baby Makes Five...

Okay. I have an honest, genuine question. I do not want to start a flame war, and I beg my friends to not think differently for asking…

I once had a friend who encouraged me to ask her questions, and during one of our many late night porch talks, I asked her what was, for me, a difficult question to ask. I said “I know why it is socially unacceptable for a white person to say the n-word. But why is it okay for African-Americans to refer to each other with that word?”

At the time, she said to me “We took something negative and made it positive.” At the time, I accepted her response. But I now find that her reply has left me with more questions. In many, many instances where I have heard African-American people refer to each other with that word, it’s been in a derogatory way. Most of the time when I’ve heard someone speaking in a good manner of another person of color (how lame is that expression, btw? Person of color? I have a color…it’s pale, but it isn’t colorless…everyone has a color, regardless of skintone), they have used the terms “brother” or “sister”. I mean, the n-word was born of, and is steeped in so much hatred and discrimination, why is it okay to use such a hateful term to refer to each other? Is it truly a matter of turning a negative into a positive, which, to be honest, I just don’t think there will ever be redemption for that word? And if it isn’t, then wouldn’t it make sense for everyone, regardless of race, to just stop saying that word? I mean, we don’t really hear about Middle Eastern people calling each other various slurs…or Mexicans referring to each other as not-dry not-front sides, do we?

Am I missing something here? I am not asking with the intent of ignorance, I am asking because this truly puzzles me, and I genuinely want to understand.

Well, Merry, I can understand your confusion. Continue reading

What was I thinking? (the blog renaming) I am ilkaisha.

Before I get too far into the whole Sonjariffic thing, I’m going to put a stop to it: My internet alias has been ilkaisha for more than ten years now, and I think I’m sticking to it. If you do a Google search for the term “ilkaisha,” you will find TONS of stuff that relates back to me. My Twitter. My Pinterest. My Facebook page. Pages I don’t remember opening. Products I’ve reviewed. Photos of recipes that I’ve made and rated on Allrecipes.com. Pictures of me and my kids. Images of random people who I’m friends with. But they all come back to me in about three degrees of separation at the maximum.

Some of the things on the Google search are things that I am not particularly proud of, and I think that these things were part of the reason that I wanted to make a new name for myself on this blog. But, even though I’ve been a bit of a jerk at times in my life, and even though you can’t really ever erase anything that’s out there on the intertubes, I’m not parting with my handle. It’s mine, and Sonjariffic is one that actually belongs to a traveling photographer who has a Facebook page, a blog, and some other credentials to back her claim to the name up. I like the name ilkaisha, and before I typed it, no one ever had. So, I’m taking the good with the bad and claiming my rightful WordPress name and address today. Continue reading

Why I’m not upset about turning 30

cupcake

This is a late blog post, but I really wasn’t feeling very inspired at any point during the day. It was rainy, and the kids were rambunctious, and I just wasn’t feeling it. Now, sitting down with my thoughts as the kids have finally finished fighting the sandman, I want to write about the fact that I will be 30 years old in 12 days. I am SO happy about it. I’m just ready to be done being a twenty-something and embrace my thirties. Whether or not it’s actually how it works, I’m just going to slam the cover on my twenties and move forward as though I get to write a new chapter. Continue reading