(Warning some strong language)
When I was being trained by the Michigan Dept. of Labor to adapt my skills as a visually challenged person, I met individuals from across Michigan. We had classes, meals and counseling sessions with most of the participants. One young black man didn’t engage with others and at the first of the month, he disappeared for over a week.
During one of these times, I overheard two older black gentlemen discussing this individual.
“He is gone again!”
“Well, he is just a n—–!”
interrupting, I ask, “Why are you using that word?”
One of the men replied,”You can’t use it, but we can, if he acts like a n—–!”
I learned later that this client had been shot in the head during a robbery and lost his sight as a result of the injury. He was require to attend the rehab school by the state. When he received his disability check in the mail, he cashed it and took a bus back to his home in Detroit. When his money was gone, he returned to the school.
I am relating this story because we have different rules for people in our ethnic group. I am Scottish and Polish. I can call another individual in my ethnic group a stingy Scot or a feeble minded Pole. Why do we make such distinctions? If it is wrong for some people it should be wrong for all.
By stating, “We can call this man a n—–, but you can’t.” This widens parameters between groups and highlights differences rather that similarities.
By questioning the two older gentlemen, I hope that they may consider their conversation could be overheard and judged by others. I learned a lesson that day. By making derogatory remarks about any ethnic group , we isolate rather than unite us as one people.
Since that day, I have ceased my own ethnic jokes and have questioned such remarks from others. We are not perfect but a little thinking before speaking can go a long way to start the healing in our communities.
As my Mother would often tell my brothers and myself, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
hurt others , draw the lines
making us feel good,
we all lose.