At 8 years old, my daughter has been called the n-word.

I received a phone call at work from the ex this week, she was in tears.

Our daughter was minding her own business playing in the playground when all of a sudden one of the boys she was playing with lashed out.

Her phone call was quickly followed up by a phone call from school; it was my daughter’s form teacher.

Her voice was trembly as she told me what happened. Most of the conversation was taken up by her assuring me of how seriously the school take such things and how they had dealt with this situation robustly.

I thanked her for the phone call and asked her to arrange meeting between both sets of parents. At this response, her voice trembled even more. She promises to call me back. She doesn’t.

I get up from my desk open the office door and go for a walk. I need to clear my head, calm down and think clearly.

From very early on I’ve tried to make my daughter self-aware. Where we live she, in fact we, are a visible minority. For this very reason I have spent years growing her self belief and the knowledge that she is worthy and can achieve anything

It appears to have worked. She reported the incident to the teachers before returning to what she was doing. The boy was removed from play, his parents were called and they removed him from school for the day.

We were eventually offered a meeting the next day with the parents and the headteacher. I declined stating that I need to put a couple of days between the incident to allow me to calm down and also do some damage control.

After school we sat her down for a talk. We asked her what happened and to explain in her words. She did and we listened.

She told us she didn’t really know what the word meant but she’d read it in a book and knew that it wasn’t very nice, and that’s why she told the teachers. I gave her the biggest hug that I could, told her she’d done the right thing and that I was proud of her.

She began to tell me that he’d only called her that name because he was angry. I stopped her. I explained that no one has the right to lash out and call anybody any names or inflict physical damage because they are angry. That is not a justification. People should learn to control themselves. He is young, he is learning, but the rules apply.

This is such an important lesson for children to learn. Words, actions, have consequences.

We received a contrite email from the boy’s mother. She was very apologetic, explained that he didn’t know what the word meant, they don’t use that kind of language at home, and that he picked it up on YouTube.

I couldn’t help but observe some parental choices. She’d read it in a book; he’d heard it on YouTube I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Big cub is fine. After we had the conversation, she spent more time telling me excitedly about the football match that she was playing in tomorrow. She was playing in midfield against some other schools. I assured her that I would be there to watch.

Her mum and I, will take a little longer to recover. For us this is the end of the age of innocence. We knew that they would come up against this kind of discrimination and hatred but we had no idea how soon it would happen. I, have been preparing her for a long time by positively reinforcing images of people and women that look like her, making sure that she knew the struggles they went through, what they enjoyed, and what they achieved despite this. I’m so glad I did.

BSD

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