written by Love Isn’t Enough contributor Liz Dwyer; originally published at Los Angelista
I send my two sons to school to learn, not so that they can be called racial slurs. But on Wednesday, a boy in 10-year-old Mr. O’s fifth grade class decided to make sure that the classroom was an extra welcoming learning environment. He posed the above question to another student, after that kid decided to give my son an eraser.
My son told me about it when I went to pick him up from his after school program and of course I was angry and upset, but I also felt numb. I am the mother of two black males in the United States. That means this is not the first time my boys have been called a racial slur.
I could write about how we are not post-racial and this is exhibit A of why I believe that racism is still America’s most vital and challenging issue. But it came to me that there’s something powerful about letting children–the most innocent of us all–share what it feels like to be called the n-word in class.
Last night I asked the boys if they’d like to talk about the racial slurs they’ve been called, and how it makes them feel. They were excited to share–we all know it’s cathartic to be able to share something painful that’s happened–and I’m glad that they know that they don’t have to keep the racism they face a secret or act like it’s not a big deal–or that it’s something they have to be ashamed of.
I filmed this interview with my boys before they went to sleep and in it Mr. T, my eight-year-old details being called an African bitch at school, and he talks about the first time he remembers being called the n-word. Mr. O talked about this most recent incident in his school, and then both boys talked about how it feels to know that when kids say these things, you still have to be in the classroom with them and what they think schools should do.
I have cried every time I watch the six minutes of this clip. It hurts like nothing else to know that children think it’s OK to call other children dehumanizing names that are steeped in the sickness of this nation’s racism.