We try to be very (age appropriate) proactive in talking with our children about slavery, racism, and civil rights. Yesterday, Matthew had a substitute teacher. He came home and told us that she talked with them about MLKJ and that she used the N-word.
"Wait. What now?"
He stuttered and stammered and said that she said that people used to use that word.
"Did she ACTUALLY say the word or did she say 'the N word'?" I asked.
"Oh she said it!" Matthew replied.
Guys, I was just about to lose my EVER LOVING MIND. The only reason I didn't was because Troy was there, imploring me to figure things out BEFORE I lost my religion.
"Maybe it was...okay? Maybe...we need to figure out the context," he said. Because I'm married to a man who really wants to give people the benefit of the doubt.
"I AM SORRY," I clenched my jaw, "but a teacher--a SUBSTITUTE teacher--should NEVER actually say that word. Especially in a room that has TWO BLACK STUDENTS!" I turned to Matthew. "I need you to tell me exactly what she said."
"Well. She was talking about that new movie with the ladies who work for NASA and, Mom, she didn't even say it RIGHT! She said, 'NigRO' with an O on the end. I mean she said it ALL wrong!"
"Wait...did she say, NEGRO?"
Now, I don't really know the context in which she said it but it sounds like she was talking about something in Hidden Figures and that it was maybe okay. This prompted our family to have another discussion about the N word and a talk about the evolution of the words Negro, Colored, Black, and African-American.
Matthew always identifies himself as Brown and it's only been recently that we've explained that while he is certainly brown, the world refers to him as a black man. In the course of this discussion of words, I informed Matthew that the only acceptable words to describe him now are Black and African-American.
His eyes grew huge. "Wait! I'M AN African-American???"
"Yes..." I replied.
"Well, okay then."