Friday’s are braai days in our household. I’d just gotten home from work, my husband had lit the fire, I had just sat down with a glass of wine, to relax and hang out with my family. The girls were in the pool when Ava started singing:
My N*gg#$, my N*gg@#
I honestly thought my ears were deceiving me.
That’s not a word we use, so how on earth could my sweet little girl be saying it?
I asked her to repeat herself, which she did and when I asked her if she knew what it meant:
“It’s how friends greet each other!” She explained.
*insert the sound of screeching brakes here!*
Apparently she’d heard this expression on a YouTube video (time to tighten up the parental controls again). I get that it was completely innocent on her part, she didn’t know better, but when you know better, you do better right?
I was ignorantly, completely unprepared for this!
It’s ignorant because our children learn from their entire environment and not just us parents and I should have known that at some point she’d be exposed to this kind of racial slur (and in my opinion, it is a slur, irrespective of who is saying it) and it was time to step up and explain to her why this was such an unacceptable word.
Time to step up and answer the hard questions.
We immediately told her it was a very bad word.
Of course, being a curious child, she wanted to know why it was a bad word. And before I knew it, we were talking about the evil that is slavery and my child was in tears. I tried to explain to her that not only is it a very offensive word, but it is a very hurtful word for people of colour, of which she is one. That it doesn’t matter who she hears saying that word, she is never to repeat it.
Being mixed race….
Means that this is confusing for her. At just 8 years old, she is confused by her identity. We are trying to teach her that you can be a person of colour and still be peach. That while Hannah is brown and she is peach, they are the same. They are both mixed race. That being peach, light brown or dark brown doesn’t change the value of a person, we are all equal in value, we just sometimes look different.
Then I took to social media to ask for thoughts and opinions on how to handle this…
And it seems it’s a topic people are reluctant to discuss. I totally get why, race and discussions around race have become so incredibly sensitive, especially in South Africa.
Parents: Heavy question but, how do you talk to your kids about racism? Especially what constitutes a racial slur?
— Blessed Barrenness (@SharonVW) January 13, 2018
I really do think these are conversations we need to have. With each other. With our children. Openly and constructively. Our children are not blind and they are not stupid, they notice the differences of the people around them. Does pretending you don’t notice, not send them the subliminal message that the subject is taboo? How are we to raise children who embrace diversity, when we ourselves are afraid to talk about it? Surely teaching them to recognize and embrace our differences is good? It’s right? Teaching them that we may look different but are equal in value, in kindness and compassion is the way to go?
For me too. But as a white priviledged mom muddling her way through the raising of her mixed race daughters, it’s a subject that I have to face head on with my children, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me. I want them to know that we MUST see the value of people as more than just the colour of their skins.
I’m not really even sure where I’m going with this word vomit….
Except to say it has weighed heavily on my mind all weekend. I want to raise consciously aware children who embrace diversity, but sometimes I feel like I’m so unprepared.
This article helped solidify some of my thoughts and feelings.