I was so tempted to just be glib about that one, because it really is that simple.
But here’s my rationale:
When someone calls you that word, they are trying to play a trump card. They are trying to HURT you and make you ANGRY in a deep way. Sometimes they just don’t know what else to say, so they throw that one out.Or they’re trying to prove that they ain’t scared of you, so they’ll hurl the (alleged) Ultimate Insult.
This also applies if somebody calls me fat or skinny or ugly or says that I dress funny. You are supposed to defend my honor at all costs!
What they are trying to do is, slip a liiiiitttttle emotional leash around your neck to get a certain response out of you. Don’t let them do it.
This is the great gift that we have been given by the sacrifices of the people who came before us – the ability to laugh in the face of someone who calls us that word.
Because they have no power over you.
This wasn’t always so. It used to be that any white person, even a white child, held the power of life and death over an African American person. This is not the world you will know.
This is not the world that I know, although my grandmother didn’t allow me to put my hands in my pockets in stores in Birmingham, Alabama. She didn’t want any white people to think I was stealing, because if they said I was? Then I was. Period.
That word is supposed to put you back into that time, that feeling of being less than.
You are never less than, my love.
It is the same as someone calling you an ostrich. It doesn’t turn you into an ostrich. And if you asked any sensible people, they would agree that you are not an ostrich. So there’s no point in smashing someone in the nose because they call you one, now is it?
So that is why I want you to throw your head back and laugh, laugh, laugh. Laugh because you dodged that emotional leash. Laugh because so many other black men could not.
Laugh because this asshole thinks you’re an ostrich.