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Racism Hits Close to Home: A Parent's Struggle with a Child's Innocent Question

Confronted with his young daughter's exposure to the N-word in school, this dad is grappling with how to explain its significance in an age-appropriate way.

Hey MJ,

I'm reaching out because I'm at a loss and quite upset. My seven-year-old daughter, who is Black and adopted, came home from school today and asked what the N-word means. She heard it at her predominantly white rural school. This has taken me by surprise and left me furious. I'm white, my wife is white/Jewish, and we have three kids. Our oldest is 10 and biological, and our two younger children, aged 7 and 4, are both Black and adopted.


We've always made it a point to educate our children about inclusivity, skin color, and racism in an age-appropriate way. We've read books and had open discussions, but we've never specifically addressed the N-word before. I didn't think we'd have to tackle this topic at such a young age.


I'm looking for advice on how to approach this sensitive subject with my daughter. How do I explain the history and weight of this word in a way that's suitable for her age? I want to make sure I handle this conversation correctly.


Thanks for any guidance you can provide.


Sincerely,

Anonymous


Dear Anonymous,

Navigating a conversation about the N-word with your young daughter is a challenging but crucial task. It's important to address this with sensitivity and clarity, tailored to her age and understanding.


First, acknowledge her feelings and experiences around hearing the word. It's important for her to know that it's okay to be upset or confused by it. Start the conversation by affirming her feelings and reassuring her that she did the right thing by coming to you.


When explaining the word, use simple, clear language. You can say that the N-word is a very harmful and hurtful word that has been used to hurt Black people for a very long time. Emphasize that it's a word that should never be used because of the pain and hurt it causes.


You don't need to delve into the detailed historical context, which might be too complex for her age, but you can touch on the idea that some words have been used to hurt others, and this is one of them. Focus on teaching the values of kindness, respect, and empathy towards all people, regardless of their skin color.


It's also important to reassure her that she can always come to you with any questions or concerns, especially about things she hears that are upsetting or confusing. This encourages an open, trusting dialogue and ensures she feels supported in navigating these issues.


Given the incident at school, consider reaching out to her teachers or school administrators. It's crucial that they are aware of the incident and take appropriate steps to ensure a respectful and safe environment for all students. This could also be an opportunity for the school to engage in broader conversations about race and respect.


By approaching this conversation with honesty, empathy, and reassurance, you are providing your daughter with the understanding and tools she needs to process her experiences and fostering a safe space for her to explore and understand complex issues as she grows.


Kenbe la,

MJ

ABOUT "HEY, MJ"

In 2020, the "Badass Black Girl" book series author M.J. Fievre began receiving correspondence from a varied audience, including parents, young adults, and teens. Fievre, an established author and speaker, is known for her insightful engagement with themes relevant to these demographics. The communication, primarily through Facebook or the Badass Black Girl inbox, revolves around topics covered in her books and public talks. These interactions display a rich tapestry of experiences and viewpoints, highlighting the author's impact on her readers.


“Hey, MJ” is a platform created to foster a meaningful connection between M.J. Fievre and her readers. It offers a forum for open dialogue, personalized advice, and the sharing of collective experiences. The platform's effectiveness is rooted in Fievre's expertise as an author and speaker. Her work, particularly in the "Badass Black Girl" series, showcases her deep understanding of the challenges and triumphs faced by her audience. Her background as an educator and her commitment to empowering young voices further enhance her ability to offer relevant and empathetic responses.


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