Being called a dirty name
Where: Rural upstate New York town
I graduated from high school in 1967, and my parents moved to the community my father was born and grew up in.
I lived with them, for a few years, and worked at a local greasy spoon.
My dream was to go to college someday, but I needed to work to save some money.
And I just wasn’t ready, to be honest.
The chance came for me to work as a teacher’s aide in the local middle school, and I took the offer.
The program was short-term, and designed to give extra support to the children of families working the area apple farms. Once the apple crop was in, these families would leave and go someplace else to work.
We called them “migrants,” a term I have always detested.
I kept my job at the local greasy spoon, since the school job was short-term.
After the job ended, I was out having a few drinks with four “friends.”
One of these “friends” told me that my job at the school had angered a lot of people in the area.
I asked why.
“Some people are calling you a N-lover.”
“And what do YOU call me?”
“I don’t know,” she answered.
“Well, I believe that people should not be judged by their color, but by who they are.”
Four blank faces stared at me like I had just spoken fluent Swedish.
These four people had no clue what I was talking about.
At that moment, I knew deep inside of me that I was living in the wrong place. Being young and incredibly dumb, I felt fear in the pit of my stomach, because I was obviously different from these “friends” of mine.
Shortly after this night of frivolity, I moved back to my hometown, about fifty miles west of this town. Slowly, I distanced myself from these “friends.”
I moved back to this small town when I became a single parent, to have the support of my family.
I lived in this town for another fifteen years.
They were fifteen (mostly) unhappy years.
But hey, that’s the past, right?
I’ve not been a resident of this town for almost twenty years, and I cannot imagine ever going back, not even to visit.
But this week, I’ve been thinking about the town that I called home for so long.
An African-American man was sworn in as President of the United States this week, and I’m wondering if some people in this town still believe they are superior because their skin is white.
After forty years, I still don’t get it.
I’ve learned to speak up when confronted by racist jokes/remarks/beliefs.
Last year I was having trouble with another blogger, and was accused of being homophobic.
This person was being controlling, manipulative, and abusive.
That this person is also gay was and is irrelevant.
But I’m getting off topic.
I was called a name 40 years ago.
It was a dirty name.
But it was true.
I was and am an “N-Lover.”
I also love Jewish and Arab people, Chinese people, fat people, skinny people, gay people, etc.
Because it’s really not about the color of our skins, what we each look like, or whom we choose to love.
It IS about what we choose to do with our lives, how we treat one another.