Thank you, Mary Ann for your recent article in support of Paula Deen. Your article has given me the courage to speak out and express my views and concerns in what seems to be an ever-growing and never-ending problem.
Paula Deen’s plight reminded me of an incident years ago when my daughter and I were in a mall in Savannah. She was seven or eight years old at the time. We had discussed the “N” word a year or so before – when SHE brought it up. She wanted to know what it meant and why it was so hurtful to some of her friends. As we walked down the mall laughing and talking, we approached a group of black teenagers. My daughter and I overheard them calling each other the “N” word --- interspersed with the “F” word. The shocked look and burning question in my daughter’s eyes was obvious. How was I going to answer her silent question? Almost without thinking, I let go of my daughter’s hand, walked directly into the middle of the teenagers’ conversation, and simply said, “Guys, I just want you to know how deeply offended I am by what you are calling each other.” The group – stunned and speechless – one of the boys finally asked me, “Why, grandpa?” (Ouch!) I responded calmly – while shaking in my boots – simply telling him that it was confusing to my daughter: “If it is offensive, then why are they calling each other that?” I quickly repeated myself, “So for whatever it is worth to you guys, I just want you to know again that I am incredibly offended.” I took my daughter’s hand again and headed for back-to-school shoes. My daughter did not speak a word for what seemed an eternity to me. When she eventually looked up at me, I knew her question had been answered, just from the look in her eyes. To this day, I can’t believe I found the nerve to do that, but I know that answer “stuck” with my daughter. Today, she hates that word and will speak out with much more confidence and conviction than I. Proud of her. Feeling more than a little shame on my part.
The world is in a state of constant change. Always will be. Sometimes I wonder if we are not backtracking in our “progress?” Since the days of Civil Rights, it seems to me that the “racial issue” is worse now than it has ever been. I believe Martin Luther King would roll over in his grave at how his “Dream” has been so grossly distorted. (What happened to the mutual respect Dr. King dreamed of? Maybe ALL of us ceased to EARN it?) Folks, simply put, we can blame it on the past OR we can ALL take full responsibility for the present. I was not the perfect dad by any stretch, but that fateful day in the mall, I tried to make a difference --- if for no one else but for my own daughter.
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