The One Time I Used the N Word

I am white. One time, as a boy in middle school in the 70's, I used the N-word. I decided to direct it toward the only black girl in our class, who was annoying me. I don't recall what specifically she was doing.

So I called her the N-word during a study period. She went quiet, and then picked up her books in a dignified way and left. To my surprise, all my white friends in the room did, too. Leaving me alone.

I immediately realized that I had made a huge mistake. I guess I had suspected it was too powerful and terrible an insult. Now I had proof.

I don't remember what happened next. Probably things went back to normal.

I wish I could contact her to say that I'm sorry. But there's no way to do it. Even if I knew her name and whereabouts after all these years. How does one approach a black woman and tell her, "um, I know I contributed to what must be a difficult life being black in America, but I'm really sorry." I kind of doubt that would make her feel better.

I can't think of any way to deal with this guilt except to say it here and to continue to carry it with me, hoping I can do some good for the few black people I may encounter in my life and work.

Jul 5

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