The word nigger sounds and feels different coming from a white person’s mouth

Let me warn you. Today’s lecture might be uncomfortable for some. So turn away if you cannot handle seeing or talking about the word nigger.

Now that I am out of the spotlight I do not get called that word any more. But readers of The Detroit News routinely called me a nigger after writing a column they disagreed with. Sometimes I’d get called a nigger on my News voice mail after breaking a big story or writing something I was especially proud of.

Two guys, especially, wanted to spoil the moment, saying I must be proud of myself. They also wanted to remind me that I was a no good nigger who did not deserve my job.

Then there was the dreaded Ticket Text at 97.1 FM. Now and then you saw the word scroll across the screen. I knew it wasn’t for Mike. It was for me.

White people used to ask me “Why can’t I call you a nigger?”

Close friends or people who liked me never asked this question. It was strangers or people who thought they knew you. Now we call it the N-word.

My response was why would you want to?

It is a confusing word. You hear rappers use it. You hear younger black people use it. The older you get the less likely you are to say the word. Here is what I would say to whites.

It’s not your word. It’s not your place. It’s just different hearing that word come out of your mouth. It means you do not respect me. You do not like me. It is a sign of hatred and disrespect coming from the mouth of a white person. It was a word whites used to keep us in place and make us feel lesser than during turbulent times in our country.

I once told fellow columnist David Steele that white people called me a nigger every two to three months on average. He laughed.

“That’s all,?” he said. “White people in Michigan must really love you.”

I’ll admit I heard the word every day of my childhood. Then one day following Little League baseball tryouts a white boy called me a nigger. It sounded different. It felt different. My body temperature rose. I hit the boy and knocked him down. His father was an official with the baseball league and kicked me out because I was an undisciplined hot head.

I told the man I was a good kid. I was angry because his son called me a nigger. I thought the guy would admonish his boy and change his mind. Instead, he looked at me and said: “But you are a nigger.”

The letter kicking me out of out the baseball league came to the house three days later.

I lived in an apartment my senior year at Central Michigan University. All of my room mates went home for the weekend. Across the hall all of Amber’s roommates left for the weekend.

It was just me and Amber on the entire floor. So we decided to make dinner Saurday night. She cooked and I bought side dishes. I had a weakness for white girls in coveralls. Amber seemed to wear this combination every day. She had a flock of dirty blonde hair. She was a cutie pie. Her chipped front tooth even made her look pretty.

After dinner Amber made it clear that I could have her for dessert. I was all in for this. She straddled me and came the magical moment.

“Terry, do you know why I like you,?” she said.

I don’t know I thought. It must be my dashing good looks or my charm and wit. It was none of that.

“You are not a nigger,” Amber said.

I swear I heard a loud music scratch from the heavens. This is why some people believe you should never talk before sex. I was stunned. I know she just didn’t say that. I believed I had to take one for Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Harriet Tubman. I was no longer in the mood and left Amber and her cute flock of hair and whip ass young body.

She was stunned and wanted to know why I was so mad. How come warm relations suddenly turned cold?

“You called me a nigger,” I said.

“Actually I didn’t,” she said. “I said you were not one. I didn’t think you’d be offended.”

Amber and I never had sex, something that haunted me my entire senior year. But I got over it.

When I was in my 20s I used to visit a woman that I called Miss Lemons because she had a lemon tree in her backyard. She hung out with four Gay guys. So I went out with her friends one night at a night club. During the evening they called each other fags, queers, queens and bitches.

Do you know what I called them? Bob, Steve, Sam or whatever names their parents gave them. I never even thought to engage.

Those were not my words.

My response was why would you want to?

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Published by terryfoster8

I am a 58 year old retired sports journalist, husband and father of two living outside of Detroit in search of his next big adventure in life.

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