Not your typical white response to “Why can they say the N-word and we can’t”

NWhen my ten-year-old daughter came home from playing across the street, she asked a very reasonable question, “Why can they say the N-word and we can’t?”

Most of the neighborhood children that my kids play with are black. My four biological child are white and we have one adopted child who is Asian. (We had a foster daughter who was black, that we tried to adopt after we raised her from nearly birth to almost four, but through a long, painful story, she was placed elsewhere).

I, of course, told my daughter that she couldn’t say it. That it was an ugly word. I explained that some black people use the word casually among themselves, but would be really offended if they heard a white person say it.

We’ve all heard this debate over and over again. CNN recently had a panel discussion about it, and it got pretty heated.

The arguments usually boil down to this:

White guy: It’s not fair that black people can say the N-word without consequence, but white people will be vilified if they say it.

Black guy: You just don’t understand.

I decided to change my approach. I couldn’t explain it to her because I didn’t understand it myself. I told her that it wasn’t fair. It was giving one race freedom to do something and not another.

And this is exactly what black people have endured for hundreds of years.

I told her that she should use this as a chance to understand, in some very small way, what it’s like to be treated differently because of your race.

You’re a white person who thinks it’s unfair that black people can casually throw this word around and you can’t? Deal with it. Black people have to deal with things everyday that are completely unfair. They spent generation after generation not understanding hundreds of rules that gave white people special treatment.

If our culture now allows black people a few tiny privileges that white people don’t get, then so be it. We’re not in danger of white people suffering any kind of real oppression.

I don’t like the N-word. I won’t let anyone, black or white, say it in my house (and I should note that the neighborhood children have never said it over here), but I think we white people should stop complaining about something we clearly just don’t get and use this as chance to understand what it’s like to live under different rules simply because of our race.

Updated: May 20, 2015 — 7:18 pm

Books by Travis Norwood

Sugar Scars

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But one survivor, a nineteen-year-old girl, requires more than simple food, water and shelter. As a type 1 diabetic her body desperately needs insulin to stay alive. With civilization gone, no one manufactures it anymore. She hoards all the insulin she can find, but every day marches toward the end of her stash of vials. She has a choice. Accept her fate and death, or tackle the almost insurmountable task of extracting and refining the insulin herself.

Brilliant scientists struggled to make the first insulin. What hope does a high school dropout have?

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Suspended Between

Julya’s scream shatters through the metal of the starship when a simple number destroys everything she dared hope for in her life—love, a future, happiness. One simple number...


4,096 colonists lay in deep suspension. Some of Earth’s best, they are chosen to colonize a new world and are on a 200-year journey through space. Julya was one of them, dreaming of the life she’ll live when she awakes on the new colony.

But Julya isn’t asleep anymore.

When an accident causes two suspension pods to fail—those of Julya and an engineer named Dax—both are forced to face the unthinkable…

What happens when you are in deep space, on a spaceship never designed for the living, with only one other person? Can you survive? Can you find love? Can you face the unexpected?

What happens when you awake early? Not just early, but 101 years early?

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