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  • kamyra9


Many moons ago, Black high school me was standing with a group of White students. Someone casually dropped the N-bomb. It was neither a first nor a last for me. Such is the legacy. Before I could muster the strength to educate or rage, I was treated to a first. An unlikely ally emphatically and unapologetically called the group on the derogatory word, every last one of them, for saying it, nodding, or letting it slide. I say unlikely because he appeared to be a gritty, cigarette-smoking, good old boy. What's that saying about books, covers, and judging? He may not have looked the part, but he did the job. For once, I didn't have to police offenders. They heard the message from one of their own. 

To this day, that teen boy is the only human being I recall throwing down like that in my presence. Like most, I have baggage overflowing with stories of deafening silence, uncomfortable giggles, stuttering, and nonsensical explanations following other N bombs and their cousins. But no one else has taken the risk of voicing outrage and dissent, not even my, and later our sons', teachers.  

At my core, I remember the depth of my appreciation when he spoke. No matter your strength, it's nice to have help carrying a load. From that point forward, we had a bond—not a romantic connection, an understanding. He got it, and I respected him for that. 

As I round the corner of 50 years young I can't recall another similar experience in my life. I have all kinds of friends who stand up for justice and equality in a myriad of ways. This man in training was the only person to do so when it counted for me as a lonely Child of God caught in the fire. The culmination of that interaction is long lost in the recesses of my aging mind. His seemingly small action may have ruined his all-important adolescent social life. I doubt it. Or, the other kids may have ignored him and continued their ignorance, most likely, although he could have touched a heart or two. Doesn't matter. At that moment in time, he had a profound impact on me. Because of him, I will forever know that there are rare, good, good old boys. We haven't kept in touch over the decades, but I like to think he's having a happy life, still speaking up and doing the right thing. 

If I halt conversations and make you uncomfortable by denouncing isms as they occur, remember I'm following his excellent example. Do you put yourself in the hot seat? Speak up? Every time? No matter what?

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