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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Addressing overheard derogatory remarks

<pen letter:

I don’t know who you are. I saw only that you were wearing a black t-shirt, that you have gauged ears, that you smoke and play croquet with your friends on Wednesday evenings.

What I know is that you yelled “f—ing n—–” in apparent distress about some aspect of your croquet game. What I know is that when my friend asked you that if you were going to use that word could at least be quieter, you left your game, walked to where she sat across the street and asked her why she didn’t go back to Israel and muttered something about passive liberals.

This is not the first time I have heard racial or religious slurs. This is not exceptional, but it is pretty old school, these verbal assaults. If I thought we were over it, if I believed that we were post-racial, that there isn’t tension among the cows and colleges, you might have made me change my mind. But I have never believed that we were over it. If you did, or do, I just want to make this clear. On May 21, 2008, in Central Park (near the intersection of Fourth St. and College St.) around 7:30pm, three derogatory comments were made using language that denigrates people of the Jewish faith, African-Americans, and people who identify with the politics of American liberalism.

It’s a little bit endearing that you attempted to defend your use of the word “n—–.” You said you had a black cousin. You seemed to realize that your comment transgressed the norms for conversations held in public places frequented by children and families. I believe that people who hurt other people have been hurt themselves. I hear powerlessness in your prejudice. I am sad that your powerlessness has led you to seek survival by using bigoted and disrespectful language. You are small on the scale of tragedies; but it is that smallness which makes this, you, the croquet, the n-word, a place to start talking.

I don’t know how you feel about pacifists or atheists or Christians or queers. I don’t know how you feel about poets or union members, socialists or women or self–identified multiracial writers with anti-consumerist tendencies who like humane immigration reform, comprehensive sex ed and Dolly Parton. But I invite you anyways, to stop by apartment # 102 at Fourth and Union. One of us is probably home and we’d love to talk to you. There is usually food and always beer. Come on over; I want to know your story because all I’ve got right now is handful of crude words and a shitty afternoon. I’ll be around.

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