When You Call my Husband the N-Word

When You Call My Husband the N-Word

You could say that I invited ourselves into this situation. There was a festival a few counties down the road that I wanted to go to for the last several years, and this was the year.

It was a rural county where the KKK is rumored to meet on occasion.

But my husband is the type who doesn’t allow fear to dictate his choices. So he sweetly obliged to his wife and set out to go to the festival with me, knowing he may very well be the only black person around.

The moment we got out of our car and started to walk towards the festival, we received a few stares. Hand in hand, we walked with the confidence and love a newlywed has. We fell in step behind a lesbian couple and their kid.

The streets were crowded with white people and hispanics; I kept my eyes peeled for anyone else who may look like my husband, keeping a running tally in my head.

We stopped at a vendor to say hello to a friend when a white man approaching, muttered the n word under his breath.

My head snapped around, heat rising to my face, my heart pounding furiously. I bore a hole in the back of his head, wishing he would turn around. If looks could kill. . .

I calculated the risk in my head. He was 8 inches taller than me and looked like he worked a manual labor job. If I punched him in the face I could either get pummeled, arrested,or worse. We were in rural, open carry East TN.

If I yelled at him to turn around, what could I say? I rehearsed my vehement monologue in my head.

Sir, when you call my husband the n word, you reduce him from a human to a one dimensional victim of prejudice.

You negate his humanity with your racism.

You disregard his soul, his thoughts, his being.

When You Call My Husband the N-Word

If your family were too poor to have a Thanksgiving dinner this year, my husband would be the one to set you up through a food drive. He is a respected man in the community, both secular and within the church.

He is the type of man who sees an old lady with a cane in the grocery parking lot, and loads her cart full of groceries in the car for her.

He stops in the street when he feels Holy Spirit to compel him to pray for a stranger.

He has been known to send money to a friend he met years ago at a conference, who is still struggling to make ends meet.

He contributes to his family’s ministry – a ministry that provides education, food, and wells for the impoverished, widows, and orphans in his father’s village in Zimbabwe.

He loves furiously and graciously. If he heard you, he would turn the other cheek.

When You Call My Husband the N-Word

But I can’t. I can’t allow myself to turn the other cheek. Because you and I have something he doesn’t have – white privilege.

You say what you want without worrying about the consequences. The freedom of speech only applies to the privileged.

I can be outraged and heard. I have the privilege to react. Should my husband react in the slightest, the rest of the white community would respond with their own political protest.

Respect the flag. Look at what this country has given you. 

This country has given him opportunities, but made it exceedingly difficult as a Zimbabwean immigrant to do so.

This country has given him freedom, but only freedom to move within the parameters we as a white community has set for him.

This country has given him privilege, but only the privilege he has carved for himself by standing up straight, being respectful in his tone at all times, dressing near-business casual, even if he is just going to the grocery store.

When You Call My Husband the N-Word

He carries himself in a way that makes the white people say, “He’s not like the others. He wears a belt.”

He speaks in a way that makes the ignorant say, “Wow, for growing up in Africa, your English is impeccable!” (English is an official language of Zimbabwe.)

But when you call my husband the n word, you take away the blank space of knowing and opportunity and instead fill it with the graffiti of your hate.

When you call my husband the n word, you reduce yourself.

You become one dimensional.

Maybe you’re a family man. Perhaps you love fiercely and work hard, just like my husband. I’m sure you laugh in moments of joy, and you’ve cried when you’ve lost something dear.

Your heart beats like the rest of us.

But all is lost within the label you’ve created for yourself.

Racist.

When you take away the humanity of someone else, you lose a piece of your humanity as well.