White Girl Me

At nine years old
I called my caregiver
The awful N-word
Angry over
Her telling me no

This smart Black
woman said
I know your Mom,
She would be so mad.”

My anger faded
I never forgot
I love her still

I hadn’t learned that word from my parents. Back then, in the fifties, my Dad had several black men who worked for him in the roofing business. They came to the side door on Fridays, and Mama gave them their weekly checks along with the white men who worked for him. It was one of them who frequently used the “word.” He said it several times before Mama finally said to him, “don’t use that word in our house. I don’t want my children to learn it.” I don’t know if he quit or what, but I never saw him again.

So I knew not to use that word. Nettie Bee forgave me, but I never have.

I wrote this at Bay Area Writer’s League Write-in on Martin Luther King Day (2022)

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