As a black girl, growing up in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood was tough. Sure, there were benefits – like being immersed in the vibrant Mexican culture (I love the food the most; elotes are life) – but there were also several cons to being a minority. For instance, I vividly remember my childhood best friend telling me that we couldn’t hang out anymore because her family didn’t approve of her associating with people of a darker color. Although scenarios like that were rare, I still felt like the odd one out. As the only black person in my classes, I had to deal with foolish questions from ignorant people.
“Do those braids, like, grow from your scalp? Or are they implants?”
“Hey, do you know a guy named Jamal? Oh you don’t? Hm, I thought you would since you guys are both … you know ….”
And my personal favorite:
“Picture this: Mother Teresa is held captive by terrorists, and they call you on the phone. They tell you that they’ll let her go, but she’ll have to say the n-word first. Would you let her say it? Would you let me say it?”
Yes, I actually have gotten that question, and I still get it quite often in different forms. It always confused me why non-black people would feel the need to say a word that has so much hate tied to it, but I finally have it all figured it out.
Pretend you’re at a party, and someone puts a mouth-watering chocolate cake right in front of you. The catch: you can’t have any, but everyone else around you can. Wouldn’t you feel jealous? I mean, the cake is right there; if you take a piece, you’ll be happy and you won’t be hurting anyone else.
Do you catch my drift?
Non-black people want to feel included. They see it as unfair that the n-word is thrown around in songs and books, but they can’t say it. Plus, black people are just super cool. Rachel Dolezal is a prime example of a white person wanting to be involved in black culture. But here’s the thing: if you’re not black, don’t say the n-word. When black people say the n-word to each other, it is because we are united in the struggles that we have faced and continue to face. When it’s said by non-black people who don’t (and never will) fully understand our struggle, the n-word can be very hurtful. Non-blacks have to realize that every time they say it, they prevent the healing of wounds that slavery caused. Instead of saying the n-word, perhaps they should go learn about black culture and where the word came from.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.