Sneak Peak into my conversation with Podcaster Willie Porter from The Thing About Us Podcast
How Hearing my Father Say the N-Word Frequently Affected Me
Growing up with a racist father was exhausting. I have many memories of us riding around in his car. He would scream the N-word to other drivers he felt were driving stupidly. He wouldn’t just say the N-word. The word “stupid” or “dumb” always came before. Hearing “Stupid N***er” growing up was confusing, terrifying, and strange. He never explained how these people were “stupid” or what the N-word meant. My young body told me all I needed to know. My body would become tense and nauseated. My body still tenses when I recall these memories.
My first memory of my father was of him threatening to shoot my Mother. He was pacing the living room, on drugs, and full of hate. I remember being in freeze mode as my Mother and Step-Father were knocking on the windows calling my name outside. This was on Thanksgiving.
Because of his racism, I have always been drawn to other cultures and races. Especially the African American culture and community. I have always been a seeker asking many questions– particularly when it comes to injustice. I think on some level I was trying to find the evidence of my racist Father’s misguided hatred. There was none. What I did find were loving communities, big families, good food, and the BEST churches.
I was 15 the first time I went to a Black Church. The JOY was infectious. I remember wondering why everyone was so HAPPY. I had never seen happiness on that level in my life. My body had a different response this time. A response of pure LOVE which I had never felt. A response I am forever grateful for.
The African American Community showed me what LOVE is. More importantly, what LOVE feels like. It felt like a SAFE warm blanket surrounding me.
Towards the end of my father’s life he began to change his mind. My last video of him is being dumbfounded our family once owed slaves. I couldn’t believe what he was saying so I had to record it. I am so glad I did because he was not hopeless. He was not born racist. He was conditioned to be racist by my racist Grandmother. She was conditioned as well.
My father left me one MORE surprise after his death. Most of the people he hired to handle his affairs before he died were African American. He hired those “stupid” people to handle his most important documents.