My Daughter Has Been Called the N-Word Twice At School. Did I Handle It All Wrong?
I know you know that I am passionate, bold and unapologetically outspoken about a few things, but I promise you that in a school and professional environment, I am always on my best behavior. I try not to raise a ruckus unless absolutely necessary and I have found that most issues can be handled through the school procedures or by talking directly to a parent.
Until last week.
My 11-year-old has been called the N-word by the same kid twice this school year. He sits behind her in a particular class and seems to enjoy leaning forward and whispering it in her ear during the lessons. Nice kid, right?
Surprised as you may be, I didn’t go directly up to school when I heard about this. Unfortunately, this is likely something my daughter will have to deal with again in her life so I work on her at home giving her the tools and skills to ignore or deal with it, instead of me (or her) fighting every racial epithet battle. That could be exhausting, sad to say.
I should also mention that the boy apologized the next day on one occasion.
So, instead of raising a fuss, I used the recent parent teacher conferences to let the teacher know what was happening and simply ask her to change his seat. That’s all I asked. My daughter is a wonderful, straight-A student and I don’t want any of her classroom performance or mindset to be clouded by the fear of some kid calling her the N-word at random. But when I told the teacher what happened, she said she would have to notify the assistant principal and complete a report because under school guidelines, this was bullying and needed to be noted by the school.
Uh-oh. That wasn’t my intention.
I asked if I could just speak to his parents instead, but she said that now that she was made aware of it she feels obligated to report it. I asked for an opportunity to talk to his parents, because I sensed he was more knucklehead than malicious (he is a person of color himself) and I would hate to see anything documented unless it absolutely warranted it.
As the mother of the insulted child, I thought I was being awfully considerate of this kid’s permanent record.
During the course of the conferences, my daughter pointed out his mother, and I decided to approach her. This is where things went downhill.
I approached with a big smile, introducing myself. I said that I didn’t know if she was aware but her son had called my daughter the N-word on more than one occasion. Instead of an apology or offering to talk to her son, she immediately said I must be mistaken because he has attended a black-owned day care since he was a baby and “those people are like family to us” so he would never, ever utter such a word.
“Yes. But he did,” I said softly.
“Well maybe he said, “Negrita” because we have Latinos in our family and they call him that because he is the darkest in our family”….( I think my daughter knows the N-word when she hears it and often doesn’t confuse two-syllable racial insults with three syllable insults)… and maybe it was a text because the kids play around and insult each other on the phone, and maybe this and maybe that…but never that…
By the time she hit the sixth apology-less excuse, my blood was boiling. The Mama Bear was coming out and a little of the angry black woman syndrome was percolating underneath my skin—particularly since I had been trying to protect her son some 30 minutes earlier. I calmly suggested (talking through my teeth) that we talk another time and walked away.
Now what? What do you do when approaching the parent doesn’t work?