Nigger

It’s amazing how much power one word can hold. The word nigger carries varying degrees of weight and meaning for different people, but for me it represents the loss of my childhood. I can’t recall hearing the word uttered before my family and I moved from an urbanized neighborhood in Connecticut to the vastly different culture of Vermont. I suppose I must have been exposed to the word in one form or another during my youth, most likely in the form of a song lyric by Tupac Shakur or Biggie Smalls, but I can honestly say that I had I never felt a negative reaction to the word “nigger” before crash landing in the predominately Caucasian community of White River Junction, Vermont. For the first time in my life I realized that I was a minority.

 

            My memory of the initial introduction to the harsh realities of racism have recently been rekindled after one of my classmates felt it was necessary to express their hatred and disgust regarding many aspects of my life, including my proclamation as a bi-sexual man, the various ethnic bloods running through my veins and my past year spent in recovery from addiction to narcotics. This was someone who I had tried to perceive as a friend, that I would have liked to trust and feel safe around, but that idyllic illusion was shattered after they referred to me as a “faggot-nigger”. With the utterance of these words I instantly felt as though I was once again a lost and frightened little boy, forced to relive every event of discrimination I had ever experienced from the time I was twelve years old. I was once again reminded of the painful truth that I will always be different and perceived as less than by many. My memories brought me back to the frigid coldness of my first winter in Vermont, as I was being chased from the bus-stop by teenage boys from my neighborhood, assaulting me with snowballs, large chunks of ice and branches from nearby trees. I can still hear them shouting “Nigger”, with such hatred in their eyes and anger in their hearts that I almost assuredly could feel radiating from within them. I couldn’t understand what I had done to make these people hate me so much, and what this word that they seemed to favor in describing me really meant, although somehow I knew that it caused me a great deal of pain beyond the welts from the projectile objects. And so began my education into the all-too-real concept of racial hate and the overwhelming fear that it can cause. Before moving to Vermont, my awareness of the Civil Rights Movement and such pivotal persons as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks did very little to prepare me for the fact that racism is still alive and well in this world. Viewing ancient looking monochrome film clips and news reels only added to my perception that racism was a thing of the past and that I had nothing to fear.

 

           

 

 

Coming from a mixed family, with a Caucasian matriarch, a Black-Hispanic father and four younger sisters whose skin tones all reflected mine, I simply did not grasp the idea that there were people in this world who would look at my family with disgust and believe that there was something wrong with us. My classrooms in Connecticut were mostly comprised of children who looked like me and with my maternal family being white, I never knew that there would be any social barrier that I would one day have to face and overcome simply because of the color of my skin. After years of dealing with racial tensions that eventually led to physical fights with classmates and neighbors, the reoccurring event of my home being covered with graffiti exclaiming various racial slurs and drawings, my mother tried involving the school system and the local police department, but nothing was ever done to resolve the matter.

The harassment continued for a time, until I eventually gave up on fighting back or even reaching out for help. By now I had learned the lesson that these hate-filled people were free to do as they wished to me and that there was no one in any position of authority who were going to respond to my cries for help and awareness of the issues that I faced.

 

            Several years have passed since that first cold Vermont winter, and although I have had a few incidences where I’ve overheard racist and homophobic remarks seemingly being cast in my direction, I have reminded myself that nothing would come of my protests to this treatment, but after a slow progression of tensions between a fellow student and myself resulted in her boyfriend and herself purportedly calling me a “faggot-nigger”, I feel that I can no longer stand idly by. Perhaps I have simply reached the end of my own personal rope, or maybe I am finally looking beyond myself and this isolated event, seeing into the future and looking at the world that I will soon raise my daughter in. Can I stand silent any longer and in turn deliver the message to my child that people are free to harass and assault her soul and spirit to the result of no consequence? It is time for me to make a change. I can no longer stand in the shadows while ignorance and hatred are cast in my direction and simply tell myself that this is how the world works. I have come to accept that there will always be hate and ignorance, a sad truth but a truth nonetheless, but meanwhile I face a consequence. Anyone who has ever felt the emotional toll of adversity and the fear of what these hate mongers will do simply because we are, can understand my pain and anger, but the fear of retaliation and the vulnerability of standing against the crowd is crippling, often to the point of keeping us repressed and silent.

 

            I know that I am about to embark on a long journey that, in the end may lead to no change whatsoever, no apologies given or lessons learned. I am no longer filled with the child-like ideals of being able to cause the ignorant ones to see the errors of their ways or to change who they are at their core, but if by standing up for myself I can help even one person to feel empowered to do the same, then I have accomplished the greatest achievement of all.

W.A.R.M.

wayneanthony87@gmail.com 

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