Being called a dirty name

Where: Rural upstate New York town

When: ~1969

I graduated from high school in 1967, and my parents moved to the community my father was born and grew up in.

I lived with them, for a few years, and worked at a local greasy spoon.

My dream was to go to college someday, but I needed to work to save some money.

And I just wasn’t ready, to be honest.

The chance came for me to work as a teacher’s aide in the local middle school, and I took the offer.

The program was short-term, and designed to give extra support to the children of families working the area apple farms. Once the apple crop was in, these families would leave and go someplace else to work.

We called them “migrants,” a term I have always detested.

I kept my job at the local greasy spoon, since the school job was short-term.

After the job ended, I was out having a few drinks with four “friends.”

One of these “friends” told me that my job at the school had angered a lot of people in the area.

I asked why.

“Some people are calling you a N-lover.”

“And what do YOU call me?”

“I don’t know,” she answered.

“Well, I believe that people should not be judged by their color, but by who they are.”

Four blank faces stared at me like I had just spoken fluent Swedish.

These four people had no clue what I was talking about.

At that moment, I knew deep inside of me that I was living in the wrong place. Being young and incredibly dumb, I felt fear in the pit of my stomach, because I was obviously different from these “friends” of mine.

Shortly after this night of frivolity, I moved back to my hometown, about fifty miles west of this town. Slowly, I distanced myself from these “friends.”

I moved back to this small town when I became a single parent, to have the support of my family.

I lived in this town for another fifteen years.

They were fifteen (mostly) unhappy years.

But hey, that’s the past, right?

I’ve not been a resident of this town for almost twenty years, and I cannot imagine ever going back, not even to visit.

But this week, I’ve been thinking about the town that I called home for so long.

An African-American man was sworn in as President of the United States this week, and I’m wondering if some people in this town still believe they are superior because their skin is white.

After forty years, I still don’t get it.

I’ve learned to speak up when confronted by racist jokes/remarks/beliefs.

Last year I was having trouble with another blogger, and was accused of being homophobic.

Not true.

This person was being controlling, manipulative, and abusive.

That this person is also gay was and is irrelevant.

But I’m getting off topic.

I was called a name 40 years ago.

It was a dirty name.

But it was true.

I was and am an “N-Lover.”

I also love Jewish and Arab people, Chinese people, fat people, skinny people, gay people, etc.

Because it’s really not about the color of our skins, what we each look like, or whom we choose to love.

It IS about what we choose to do with our lives, how we treat one another.

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About boomergrl49

Mom, Grandma, social worker, blogger. I love reading fiction of all kinds, and I'm also addicted to television, especially Fringe!

Posted on January 24, 2009, in Working at the Spoon. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I think a lot of that Beth could be people realize their own failures and insecurities of themselves and instead of meeting them head on they have to belittle or look down on others,racism is prevalent in the South but I have seen much in the North also,I think racism as we know it today is more concealed than at earlier times but it is in America just not as prevalent as years past.I am glad you were brought up to believe we are all equal and to respect others no matter their nationality,sex,creed or color. Maybe the town you speak of has changed for the better let’s hope that all towns in America would change and stamp out racism forever,because in the end we are all human beings sharing a planet,cheers,,floyd.

  2. How we treat one another…OH YES!!!!!! You said it! 🙂 🙂Have a glorious weekend Gran 🙂

  3. Amazing post Gran, when all is said and done we all have white teeth and red blood. So glad you got out of that town. Sometimes small towns equals small minds just because of ignorance. It’s a shame but things change even if it takes a long time. I wonder what it was about you that made you dfferent from your friends given you grew up in the same place, went to the same schools etc. Your parents must have been different perhaps? I liked this post a lot.

  4. You too, Muse! Thanks!

  5. Floyd, you make some really good points, the personal failures of people and such. After I posted this, I thought of other ways I was different from a lot of people in that town–I wanted a college education, liked to read, etc. Thanks a lot for your opinions, Floyd, I value them.

  6. p.s., Lilly, my next Working at the Spoon post is about some of the wonderful people in this town.

  7. Lilly, I was raised in a bigger city, came to that town after graduating from high school–an inner city school with diversity to the nth degree.And also, as I just commented to Floyd, I had different goals from a lot of the folks living in that town.When I was little, it was my father who taught me that all people deserve the same chances.Thanks Lilly.

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