To say it’s been an emotional few weeks would be an understatement considering that two police officers just went unpunished by our justice system for the murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. With all of this racial tension in the air and protests galore going strong in cities across the nation, it’s become a tense and difficult time in America to be black.
In the thick of all of this chaos, I’ve had many a conversation about race relations and politics, including one particularly salient conversation with my father about racialized trigger words for black people, specifically the word nigger. My father, who is now in his 60s, told me about some of the times in his life where white people have called him a nigger, whether to hurt him or prove they were somehow “down.” And he shared with me that he had to learn for himself that he couldn’t allow that word to trigger his rage because it wasn’t worth it to lose his freedom, his dignity or his life fighting the world over a word that did not define him. And he advised me to do the same to keep my sanity and my freedom.
Being an 80s baby, I’ve only ever been called a nigga by white guys who thought, in this so-called post-racial world, that it was okay now to say nigga because we were friends - emphasis on were. For me, I’d been lucky not to have been called that word in a hateful manner.
However, I got a rude awakening about how the racism of America can easily hit home last week when I had an unforgettable run-in with a racist man on the road.
While driving through Roswell in search of a Chase bank, I accidentally cut off a white man on the road behind me from making a turn before me. He immediately began honking his horn and when the oncoming traffic had cleared for me to make my turn, he sped past me, took the turn first, and shot a bird at me while mouthing fuck you.
Sadly, it doesn't end there. After we both turned into the shopping complex, he drove to a stop sign 100 feet away from me, jumped out of his car and yelled "FUCK YOU!! FUCK YOU NIGGER!! FUCK YOU!!" at me at the top of his lungs. He yelled so loudly that I heard him clear as day with my windows rolled up.
The entire time I looked him in his face and saw nothing but sheer hate and rage as he hurled "NIGGER" at me like it was a barbed whip and he wanted to see my blood spill and splash to the ground - The look in his eyes told me that he wanted me dead. He wanted me to not exist anymore, as if I was the thing in his life that was causing him so much pain.
Unfortunately for him, the turn was just a turn, nothing more. The moment was unimportant and his rage was unwarranted. I had nothing to do with his rage. He was angry before he even came across my little Civic. He was a fucked up individual long before the day we crossed paths....and in the words of Kermit the Frog, that wasn't none of my business.
I wanted nothing to do with any fight, any chaos or any life-threatening brawl over something so small and petty. So, instead of hopping out of my car and confronting the racist, I simply shrugged my shoulders and arms in front of his face and drove off to his destination.
if being a nigger is such an evil and vile thing, then it that moment I wasn't the one who was being a nigger. I was a black man looking for a bank who made a simple driving error in a place that I'd never driven to before. I wasn't looking for any trouble, nor was I going to entertain it. He on the other hand was an angry man looking for trouble who was willing to disturb the peace, harass and insult me all over the most minor of annoyances.
According to "The Boondocks," that kind of attitude is what leads to so-called "Nigga moments"