Tashia Ethridge

A Hard "R"

I don’t remember his name. Whether it began with or ended with an “R” is all that comes to mind. Perhaps a hard “R”, like the one concluding the word that knocked me out of my Utopian illusion. It all came rushing suddenly; the heat that filled my ears and tingled down my spine was the same fever that evoked indignation when I first found out my world was not egalitarian, and he had just called me a “nigger”. It was a word foreign to my ears, one my mother had raised me to be sheltered from; but her levy was not quite strong enough to hide me from the truth. Even at eight, I had so much to say to him. My words first came in expletives, but then questions. “Why would he say such a thing?” and “Who had taught him to do so?”. Instead of allowing the words to escape my still gaped mouth, I faltered back into my seat and when it was my turn to get off of the bus, I silently shuffled by the bus driver.

On the walk home, I turned the incident over and over in my head. He had won. How could I have let him win? Or had he? The tears were not ignorable when I walked through the door, puffy eyed and battered. My mother looked at me, and in that second, she knew. Her feet were once in the exact shoes. She swept me up in her arms and apologized, for the world, for the universe, the hate, and for this boy.

I had already accepted that apology, or the lack thereof. From that moment on, I would strive to try and keep people out of “those shoes”. I comforted those within them and spoke out against the exploiters outside of them. Today, I plan to study anthropology, or maybe sociology; that of which I am unsure of. What I am sure of is that, that boy, beginning with an “R”, ending with an “R”, or not having an “ R” at all, will forever be the reason for my moral and ethical success. Maybe one day I will be able to thank him for it.

Note: Facing History understands the legacy and impact of hateful language. However, due to the first-person point of view of the student essays, we are posting all of the submissions unedited. Parent/Guardian approval has been obtained for the posting of every essay.

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