Editor, Times-Union:
I went shopping with my mother when I was 5 or 6 years old. A woman was walking across the street who was African-American. I looked at my mother and said, “Look at that N woman over there!” She quickly put me up against the store window. (In those days a parent could discipline their child in pubic). She got right in my face and said, “Don’t ever use that word. We grew up together during the Depression and our families helped each other out. She is my friend and you will treat her with respect.” That was my introduction to race relations. My parents would not tolerate that type of talk.
When I entered the U.S. Army, much to my surprise, the black trainees at Fort Leonard Wood freely called each other the N word. One night a young white kid from Arkansas thought he had “joined the brothers” while playing cards and responded to a winning hand by saying, “N please.” The barracks broke out into a race riot and the drill sergeants had to resume order by making us “push Missouri away.”
I have watched the recent character assassination of Paula Deen with sadness. I lived in Savannah, Ga., while in the Army in the late 1970s. It was a different culture mixed with a strange tension between the races. People were quick to note that I was a “Yankee” and didn’t understand. My parents’ training served me well hearing my father’s words, “No one is better than you or worse that you. Treat everyone with respect.”
I don’t know Paula Deen, but I can tell you I met many people like her in Savannah. It has taken courage on her part to admit under oath that she used the N word. The courts need to determine if Paula has wronged her employees while we keep our stones pointed at ourselves because we have all said things we wish we hadn’t.
The strange thing is that our young people listen to “artists” who spew the N word with few voices of protest. Bill Cosby was chastised for speaking out. The rapper Ciara shared in an interview, “I am an African-American woman, so I can identify with that word (N) in different ways. It's all about the context and in my case I know I can have fun because I know where I’m coming from with it. I cannot hear another person of another race saying, ‘you this’ like ‘you that.’ Again, it's all about how you say it and what context it’s used in.”
Garbage. “Artists” use those words for shock value raking in money as they destroy a generation. Proverbs 8:13 says, “To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.” We honor God and our fellow man by not using N at all. All of society needs to put it to death. Words mean what they mean. Ask Paula.
Ken Locke
Greater Warsaw Ministerial Association
Warsaw, via e-mail