by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson
The most provocative ideas seem to fly out of nowhere.
I was listening the community discussion of Jabari Asim’s new book The N-Word: Who Should Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why and I was enjoying the depth of conversation explored by the attendees. One woman, when recounting her experiences made an interesting and illuminating comment.
As a Caucasian woman raising a biracial child who identifies as black, she explained having a lengthy discussion with her child about his casual use of the N-word with his multicultural group of friends. The woman’s son informed her that the n-word was no longer a stigmatized term. What was worse, the son explained, was the “other N-word.”
Puzzled, I leaned forward in my seat. As I shivered in the aggressively air conditioned meeting room, I did a quick scan of my mental word bank to figure out another n-word. Nothing. The woman continued.
The other N-word was nerd.
The discussion continued to swirl around me, but that phrase stuck with me for the rest of the evening.
The following day, I attended my younger sister’s high school graduation. A graduate of Charles Herbert Flowers High School (focusing on the Science and Technology program) I am pleased to share that my younger sister graduated in the top 5% of her class.
However, she was outdone by both the class valedictorian and salutatorian, both of whom boasted advanced GPAs, (4.8 and 5.2, I believe), SAT scores, college level course work (one of them had completed Calculus 3), and numerous community service projects.
Both of these young men confidently approached the podium and spoke of opportunity, achievement, and success. As they spoke, I wondered if they had already felt the sting of the “other n-word.” Outwardly, they were both attractive, seemingly popular young men. What were their lives like? Did they feel penalized for the intellect? Did they feel the burden, the unrelenting pressure placed upon those deemed young, gifted, and black?
After the tassels were turned, I fought through the throng of graduate families to find my younger sister. After giving her my congratulations, I asked her if her valedictorian and salutatorian were ostracized for being so smart. Continue reading