Friday, June 12, 2015

Flashback To 1968 - The N-word Lives in 2015! What Do We Do?

Mary was an adorable little girl - a poster child for the All-American kid. She was blond with turquoise eyes and a smile than could melt an iceberg.  For all her beauty, she was friendly, sweet and well-liked by everyone on our court.  On a sweltering North Caroline day, Mary and I decided to play on our tricycles and to race up and down the sidewalk.  We were tearing down the lane with blistering speed when she hit a rut in the pavement and crashed terribly.  Concerned for my friend, and having been raised to help anyone in need, I jumped off of my bike, ran towards Mary to assist her.  Mary's mother had seen the accident too and was herself running outside to help her child.  Because I was closer, I reached Mary first.  As my hand touched Mary's and I began to pull her up, I heard an unfamiliar word that Mary's mother seemed to use with anger - a word that didn't make sense to me, delivered in a tone that didn't seem to fit what was happening. As I continued helping Mary her mother screamed, "Nigger, get your hands off of my daughter!!"  "What a strange word," I thought! After a few seconds of processing, I determined it must be a proper name that she somehow thought was mine.  Wanting to make sure she understood her mistake I responded, "I am sorry Madam, you are mistaken. My name is not Nigger Jackson, it is Samuel Darrell Jackson!" She was stunned to silence. There was not much more time to interact, as unbeknownst to me, my own mother had witnessed the entire goings on and was running to my side with the purposefulness and demeanor of Wonder Woman.  She stopped a few feet away from us and didn't seem happy at all. She pulled me to her side, inquired about my well-being and asked me to go inside of our quarters.  I obeyed, looking out of our window to observe her interaction with Mary's mom.  My mother wasn't yelling, but she her face was full of conviction, her gestures were controlled but strong and Mary's mother responded with what seemed to be contrition and an apology.

After the exchange, Mary and her mother went into their quarters and my mom returned to ours.  Ma explained that the word I heard was not a proper name, but an insult reserved to degrade people of our ethnic background.  She explained that while I should always do my best to avoid fighting over that word, even though the person using the word may be trying to provoke me, I should never be afraid to speak truth into a situation and never fail to reject the characterization of me associated with this word.  Her advice was sage, as it has been my unfortunate experience to have had this terrible, yet indomitable word directed towards me in every place I have lived in the United States - including my present abode - and even a few unexpected places internationally.  The incident I shared is unpleasant, but wasn't to be unexpected.  After all, it was 1968 - a year that was characterized by racial division and violence in this nation, and the N-word made itself apparent in situation after situation on a daily basis. It was the norm.  Fortunately, in the informed days of this 21st century, such occurrences are rare and will not haunt the memory of present day, young Americans, right?   Unfortunately, I believe not.

I share this story, because I immediately flashed back to this first experience of hearing the "N-word" after learning that a dear friend's son encountered this word just yesterday in our enlightened, politically correct times of 2015 - 2015!!  His situation was much more fearful, and much more discouraging than mine as the word was directed towards him by his own young peers, in a very threatening manner with no apparent adult intervention in a school setting that would seem to have readily lent itself to supervision and adult assistance.  His parents - devoted to living like Jesus - remain people of peace and reconciliation and though they are discouraged, they are yet resolute in their desire to stay on the path of healing and to continue to promote peace and unity.  I stand with them. I also feel the necessity to state that incidents like these cause me to become more resolute in my commitment to do the work of the Lord and to spread the Gospel of peace.  People will not change through the political correct imposition of phrases and behaviors.  People will only change through the complete and through overhaul of spiritual transformation.

The Apostle Paul charged the faithful in his Romans letter to stopped being conformed to this world of evil, but rather to "be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect." It is for this reason that I remain devoted to ministry, to the preaching of the Gospel and to a life dedicated to showing others the love of God through acts of service, help and love.  It is why we will cross boundaries and cultural barriers to travel to the other side of the world to share a little hope through personalized compassion and care.  Will our actions kill the "N-word?" No.  Our actions can, however weaken it and increase the ranks of others who will march against it. They will not fight it with swords, but with love - a weapon that never dulls, that never becomes obsolete and never needs an armory!  It just needs soldiers brave enough to keep wielding it with passion, intensity and devotion. I'm a soldier in the Army of the Lord, committed to continue to fight the good fight and to spread God's love in spite of overwhelming odds and constant opposition. The N-word persists, but the love of God will outlive and eventually kill it. To this truth I devote my life, my fortune and my sacred honor.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

... to the other side of the world, ... and Racine.