Wednesday, July 13

A southern gal says, WTF??

When I was about 12, I visited my cousins in a very small town in western Mississippi. Lunch (or dinner, as my cousins would say) that day was being served by a Black lady named Agnes employed for years both by my aunt, and on other days, my grandmother. My male cousin, 10 at the time, uttered the word "nigger," though now I cannot remember if it was in direct reference to Agnes or not. No one is more righteous in his or her beliefs than a 12-year-old burgeoning liberal, and I immediately told him to apologise to Agnes, whereupon she whirled around and told me "not to talk to my baby that way."

That was my first clue that the issue of race in the South might be a mite more complex than I had expected.

Keep in mind that this was 25 years ago, and Black folks had not yet appropriated the term. Agnes' reaction was quite startling to me then, and remains so now. Made me think about how I do not have the right to speak for someone else, even (especially?) if I am "doing it for their good."

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