Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Nigga'

Something that happened in class yesterday is still racking my brain this morning, so I thought that I would write about it.

For those of you who don't know, I am working on a certificate to teach English as a Second Language. Although my goal is to teach international children, I have several non-native speakers of English in my classes at SIU. Working on my certificate has honestly been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I have loved having the opportunity to learn about cultures from across the world and being able to provide a perspective of what it is like living in a small town in southern Illinois.

Thus, it is this give and take of information that struck me yesterday. We were discussing about teaching not only Standard English but spoken/slang English as well and how that best benefits the learner.

Slang. No problem.
Yo- a way to say hello.
Sup?- What is new in your life?

You get the jist.

But then the conversation took a turn into what can easily be considered as a "Hot Topic." The use of the "N" word. (Disclaimer: If you are easily offended by just reading this word, then do not continue.)

It was brought up by the professor when she described one of her previous student's mistakes. The girl read classic American literature often, and when the black UPS man arrived at her house, she yelled to her roommate, "Hey! There is a nigger UPS driver here." The girl had only been in the US a few days and had no idea of the severity of her statement.

This was followed by one of the students from Saudi Arabia. He was describing how he took it as an honor to be called that. He said he felt that he finally belonged to the group when they referred to him as their "nigga."

Instantly, I was reminded of part of the Tunnel of Oppression that was at Grinnell Hall last year. In it, two black men performed a spoken-word poem angry over the use of the word nigger/nigga that has plagued our society. They described the origin of the word's use, the hate that is attached to it,  and the men who had to suffer through that word until it was no longer considered acceptable to say. They then continued in their outrage at the way it is used in music, movies, the internet, and in casual conversation. It was an overall look at how with the use of this word we have regressed.

What struck me in class though was not only how the culture in today's society has embraced the use of the word, but also how the word was never once said in class. Neither the professor nor the students ever let the world actually cross their lips. It was either referred to as "the word," "the N word," or there was a designated pause used in their point. It was considered to be so offensive overall that it is entirely unacceptable to even use the word in an educational context.

And that is why I am still mulling it all over this morning.

Do I suggest using the term "nigger" in a room of 5th and 6th graders? No.

But what about in a room full of adults when you are discussing the word's history and its use today? Is it still then considered to be so far beyond acceptance that you can't even say the word?

It was this question that I was confronted with yesterday after class. The student from Saudi Arabia wanted to know why some people avoid the word like the plague, some state it as though it is a word just like any other, and while others embrace the word as a term of endearment.

How do you answer that?

How do I say that when I hear the word being used as a term of brotherhood it hurts my heart because I know that when others say it, it is being used as a term of utter disgust. And how do I say that I use the word "nigger" in our discussion because I believe that when we avoid the word entirely that we are ignoring the history that comes with it, and we are further allowing it to become socially acceptable. (So long as it is said as "nigga" instead of "nigger.")

Furthermore, how do I describe this to my children someday?

How do I say, "When we are at your dad's family reunions and your cousins embrace you with a hug while excitedly exclaiming, 'MY NIGGA!' it is ok. But when we are in Enfield and you are walking to the park and someone sees you and says, "We told Stephanie to keep her little niggers in Carbondale." it isn't ok, and you should be upset."

The answer to myself is that I won't say that and that I don't embrace the word in any fashion, nor do I intend to allow my future children to view the word as a "good" thing in any way.

It was a was a wake-up call to say the least. I knew that manner in which I was going to have to approach the word in the future; however, now I am left with knowing that I am not only facing a society in the United Sates that embraces the word's use, but that I am also going against a growing trend worldwide.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Everyone always says they married their best friend. But for a girl who is pretty attached to her female best friends, that has been a concept that I wasn't able to truly wrap my mind around.

Until recently.

Ray is working 7-6 at Enterprise and then coaches for Morthland every evening. That usually places him home about 9:30-10:00 every night.

At first I had expected it to be like our life last year. He was gone a lot for basketball, and with our work, school, and extracurricular schedules, we learned to relish in the few moments we did have together intermittently throughout the week. However since we've gotten married, I feel that each passing week causes me to miss him more.

We celebrated our one year anniversary of being together this past Monday, but like usual, we weren't able to spend anytime together. I was already asleep when he got in from work.

Trying to not be sulky about it, I started thinking over the past few weeks. Ray has has an unusual amount of days off because of his doctor appointments and surgery. Every day he had off meant we got to spend the day together at the doctor's office. Would I have rather simply spent the day with him out and about or even at home together? ...Yes. But it didn't matter. I was with him.

This past Sunday was a defining moment for the concept of marrying your best friend. We were coming home from my mom's house, and I started to open up to him about the way I have been feeling about our life, schedules, and the trials we have faced over the past year. The conversation covered a wide range of topics, but at one point I was a blubbering girl of emotion. He simply reached his hand over and rubbed my neck.

It was a gesture that literally swept me. He didn't have to say anything. He didn't have to do anything. He just let me know that he was there.

The love of my life
It is that feeling that made it click for me that he really has become my best friend. After all, simply being there is what made my best friends, my best friends. This is not to discredit their countless hours of advice, encouragement, love, support, generosity, and laughs over the course of our friendship, but it's those moments of them just being there that have truly meant the world.

And for that I am so thankful.

Locker neighbor to FINALLY my bestie beyond distance, Keri 

My best friend since birth, my sister Sarah.
Who knew a conversation about cool whip
would lead me to this girl?  

StuCo truly changed my life by blessing me with this girl.

High school. SIU. She's been there for it all.