Hey, Zeus!

Silent letters have always perplexed me. As a huge proponent of the English language, I can’t help but consider them my friends, but it’s more like in a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” sort of way. Why name her “Sarah” when you can name her “Sara”? Why is it a “gnat” instead … Continue reading Hey, Zeus!

Words

These words are not mine Even though they pass my lips Like sparkling lemon water Making me thirst for more The undulating rhythms Of living language thrive They constantly vibrate But I study them from afar These turns of phrase This quickening of terms Shaking me to my core They say such sweet things But … Continue reading Words

Well… F#*k

I said the F word in class the other day,  because a story I read to my students utilized it. It wasn’t just there as decoration, as I often see it, not merely masquerading as an adjective when another word would have been more appropriate. It was an exclamation of sheer despondence. And that’s just … Continue reading Well… F#*k

The Language of Things

Every relationship has an originality to it that defies explanation, but it can be seen in the subtle signals, in the secret code, and in the routines that separate the two within it from the rest of the world. No matter if the relationship is a short one or has some longevity there are always … Continue reading The Language of Things

The ‘N’ Word

n word nieema fosterAs a parent I want to protect my children from anything and everything that could hurt them, but realistically that’s not possible. The best I can do is prepare them as well as I can for dealing with and overcoming those issues as they come up. Of course some of the biggest issues that could hurt them come from factors they have absolutely no control over, a fact that hurts even more because, even though I wouldn’t want them to change to fit someone else’s standard, at least it is a flexible thing. When someone hurts either of my children, for whatever reason, though, I am like a papa bear who wants to rip down the entire forest to get justice.

I knew from a young age that if I ever brought children into the world they would be judged, not merely on their mental capacity, or on their empathetic scale, or even on the style of dress they fancied, but also on the color of their skin. Even when I grew older and married a woman who just happened to be white, I knew that skin color would still be an issue, because our children would never be “just” white, so they would be different, especially around here. Yes, we’ve made some great gains in race relations and issues surrounding the tension therein, but prejudice still abounds, even if it is done more subtly now than ever before.

In the class photos you can see the differences, in the abundance of curly, kinky hair, in the fullness of the lips, in the curve of the nose. These characteristics she inherited from me, and I’m proud of that, that I can see some of myself, and of my heritage, in her, even just physically. She gets so much from her mother too, but the one thing that stands out most, especially when looking at the class photos, is her skin color. There is a bit of a Mariah Carey light mocha coloring she has that is so beautiful to me, but I know when others see it they have their own ideas. I will honestly never know why, but some people can’t stand what they don’t understand.

When we are out and about without my wife, it’s interesting to see how differently people treat us, and how they treat me in particular. We are a black family when I am with my children on my own. It’s plain to see when older black women smile at the kids, as if they were their own grandchildren, or when we pass older white couples who look at us like we’re a completely new species. These same older black women, and these same older white couples, treat us differently when we are all together. In fact, they tend to ignore us and go about their business. They don’t “get” us. They can’t wrap their brains around an interracial couple, a mixed race family, even now, in this day and age.

The first time I heard someone use the ‘N’ word I was probably about 8 years old and it was on my block, a place comprised of all black folk, and the term was meant to be endearing. Continue reading “The ‘N’ Word”