I promised to share stories our MLK keynote speaker Ms. Lynda Blackmon Lowery shared with us at lunch last Monday. The following powerful story was about language and the time her Daddy took her, a very excited young girl to go buy a new pair of shoes. As they entered the shoe store she was holding her Daddy’s hand with him towering above her…
The buccolic scene quickly changed as a young white girl approached them not much older than herself, stared up at Ms. Lowery’s Daddy and matter of factly asked him “What do you want n…..? It was at this point in the story Ms. Lowery’s eyes welled up as she continued explaining the change she saw in her Daddy’s frame and eyes. A look she will never forget. A mixed look of hurt and anger. The use of the ‘n’ word cut immediately to his core. He said nothing, tightened his grip on her little hand and they left. They never spoke of it. Yet some 6 decades later that day still carries so much weight.
Ms. Lowery’s story had a visceral effect on me. I continued eating but let me tell you each bite didn’t go down easily. I grew up in the South and learned at a very early age there were certain words you never used and one of those was the ‘N’ word. Later I would learn the ‘history’ of denigration the ‘N’ word carried. To this day I have never used it. It wasn’t ever used in a kind way. It carried a tone of white supremacy and if I hear it used from a white mouth, it makes me think less of the person using it. It is always considered offensive when used by a ‘white’ person. The racial slur reveals volumes of years of slavery.
I know there’s controversy regarding its usage and that a diminutive form ending in ‘ga is considered an endearing term. Ms. Lowery doesn’t feel the word should be used by anybody. Not rappers, youth, nobody…
As the Crosby Stills & Nash lyrics say: Teach your children well…
Netflix’s “When They See Us “retelling of the Central Park 5 where five innocent 14 and 15 year old youth, 4 Blacks and one Latino are coerced into false confessions incriminating others and wrongfully being incarcerated (sentenced 5 to 15 years) for an attack and rape of a white female jogger in Central Park. The NY Times referred to the attack as “one of the most widely publicized crimes of the 1980s”.
“When They See Us” is so powerful that one has a difficult time watching each of the 4 parts of this horrendous injustice as eventually the true perpetrator confessed and the five were exonerated with a 41 million dollar settlement. But watch it we must as this is not an isolated case but one of many examples of racist inhumane actions by our justice system.
The story’s retelling’s importance is paramount as after its release it has led to repercussions most importantly that the led prosecutor Linda Fairstein now was pressured to resign from Vassar College’s board, removed from a non-profit organization for which she worked for the past 20 years and was dropped by her publisher.
I’ve included a couple other links below that also shed some light on the story . Even one from the man in the oval office who took out a full page ad condemning these boys even after they were exonerated and has never apologized.