Andrew Wright

“There was an old black woman who lived down a lane near us. Hers was one of the few poor little houses in our neighbourhood. It was not much more than one room really. She was a bent old thing with a long dress which hung lower at the front than at the back because of her being bent and leaning forward. She always carried a worn shopping bag which seemed to be half full, never less and never more.

One day I was with my friends under an elderberry tree at the side of the road when we saw her coming. My friends dared me to say, ‘Nigger’, to her. It was wrong and I knew it was wrong.

They kept on, ‘Dare you! Dare you! Dare you!’

When she came past the tree I stepped out behind her and said in a whisper, ‘Nigger!’ and then louder, a second time, so my friends would really hear me. ‘Nigger!’

By this time she had got to her gate and my little dog had run after her and come up to her legs. She bent down and stroked his back and his little brown, smooth head and he wagged his tail. She didn’t look round at me, just undid the latch and went into her house.

I’m sure she knew it was my dog.

 

 

My comments

From the old woman a generous empathy with other people and animals.

From the boys merely a wish to be worthy of being in a gang and finding a way of defining the gang by pointing to somebody not in it.

This life story was told to me by an American teacher I met a long time ago.

 

3 Responses to “Nigger!”


  1. 1 Karenne Sylvester October 31, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Golly! This is a very good story for teaching cultural taboos. I can see this story being very useful as a discussion point requesting students to think about the ways people in their own cultures refer to those who are “considered” less and how people are the same everywhere in the world.

  2. 2 nalini May 16, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Brought a lump to my throat! I live in a culturally diverse society myself and yes, lots of taboo. Unfortunately, our present crop of leaders saw it fit to actually promote a book for the 5th formers that used a culturally taboo word in the Indian community.

    Words we actually shy away from using with our own kids is so freely brandished by the insensitive, in the name of Literature!

  3. 3 Andrew Wright May 17, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Nalini
    Your email can be read as feeling positive or negative about my story called, ‘Nigger’. I am always keen to learn from other people so please tell me more specifically whether you feel OK about the story or not.
    The first para seems positive towards the story but the second para could easily mean that I have ‘brandished’ the key word ‘in the name of literature.’.
    Andrew


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