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My Kid Said The N-Word & I Was Completely Unprepared!

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. 

noun

1.

Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive.

  1. a contemptuous term used to refer to a black person.
  2. a contemptuous term used to refer to a member of any dark-skinned people.

2.

Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive. a contemptuous term used to refer to a person of any racial or ethnic origin regarded ascontemptible, inferior, ignorant, etc.

3.

a victim of prejudice similar to that suffered by black people; 
a person who is economically, politically, or socially disenfranchised.

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.

 

But…

 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? 

It’s uncomfortable…

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. 

View story at Medium.com

Your thoughts?

8 Comments

  • Caroline

    January 15, 2018 at 9:02 am

    I understand that heavy feeling, I am privileged white raising white children, and the teacher called me in when my daughter was 3 saying that she had said that one of her friends wasn’t invited to her party because she is brown, I spoke to the mom and apologised etc… but I literally cried for 2 weeks, this is nothing that we have thought our children, and we had invited the entire class the party and she knew that?!?! But she was 3 and I don’t think it had the context that we all jump to, nonetheless I explained that it is hurtful and that a colour is just that, a colour, we are all the same on the inside etc.
    Then last year my turning 6 year old told me at breakfast in front of his 4yo sister that his friend knows swear words, so I was like… yeah okay… what words does he say… S**t, F**k and B**ch… well I nearly fell on the floor… so there was another difficult conversation, and how they are not nice words to say etc..
    We are learning just as much as they are I think…

    Reply
  • Thamaray Francis

    January 15, 2018 at 10:35 am

    Well we also don’t really discuss race in my house and then in December before school closes my child was asked by another child if he is indian and he said no,so when I got to school the child asked me the same question and I said yes and so is Kowen ,then I had to explain to my son about race but I used it in a different context and explained about our foods and culture etc and at the end we are a rainbow nation with special values if that makes sense but I was totally taken offguard by this question.

    Reply
    • Sharon

      January 15, 2018 at 8:53 pm

      I think kids have a natural curiosity about these things and it’s our job to be open and honest but without creating prejudice. There was a boy at Ava’s school who kept asking her how I could be her mommy if she was brown and I was white. That was my opportunity to educate him.

      Reply
  • MamaCat

    January 15, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    Oh my…what to do. I have no words of advice really, I think you did the right thing, explaining immediately. Because hubby and I are different races, our little one is often asked questions about his race. He has come to me often asking what colour he is, because in our house, we are a family and we are all different colours. I think, like anything, you should just explain age appropriately and the lead by example. You can say all you want for as long as you want, but the kids will do what we do.

    Reply
    • Sharon

      January 15, 2018 at 8:54 pm

      Exactly. I feel like avoiding the race conversations ultimately makes it more taboo, I think it sends a much stronger message than being open and honest. Talking about race doesn’t need to be and should never be racist.

      Reply
  • Michelle

    January 16, 2018 at 2:42 am

    Being a white adoptive parent to an African-American child, we have had to deal with the N word multiple times. Most recently with a child that moved from France to California and used it as a generic term for people with dark skin (?!?). We never really got a good story as to why although we must suspect it is in the family. In any case, we were swift to work with the school administration to send the message school-wide that the N word is a term that has been used to demean dark-skinned people for generations and in our school community we are working to change that. No matter HOW the word is used it is not acceptable and must not be used to describe any dark-skinned people — because of the bad intention (discriminating against people with different skin color) in its past and much of its present use. The two most important aspect of this message are 1) quick response and 2) complete unacceptability because of a need for change. I think this no nonsense approach avoids “glamorization” of the term and sends the right community message. Good luck with it and you’ll probably have to deal with it again but repeat the message and maybe expand the historic context with greater understanding of the child.

    Reply

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