So there we are at the playground. There was another little boy about Marin's age and the kids started playing with him. He starts doing the 'eeny meeny miny mo' rhyme and goes with the 'catch a nigger by the toe' version. You know, it's Maine. I'm not gonna lie. Me and my friends used to say that all the time in elementary school. There were no blacks in our school. But it's been about a hundred years since I heard a kid say 'nigger' so I just kind of stood there hoping the moment would blow by. No.
Marin: Daddy, what's nigger mean?
Me: (crap - trying to buy time because I had not previewed this situation in my head) Marin, I'm not sure, let me think about it.
Marin: you know Daddy, tell me the truth
Parents of Ethiopians know that these kids don't come with the baggage of slavery and discrimination that many black Americans grew up with. Eth kids can't get their heads around it because where they come from, brown skinned people are all up and down the social and economic ladder and there is are no white skinned people to practice discrimination. Back to the playground.
Me: (to the little boy) Do you know what a nigger is? (hoping he doesn't)
Boy: Yes. You're one (pointing at Marin)
Marin: What is he talking about?
By this time, the boy's mother can see he is getting uncomfortable so she walks over (after snuffing out her cigarette, shutting off her iPhone, and dumping out her beer - OK I made up the beer part).
Mom: What's wrong honey?
Boy: This man is asking me questions.
Mom: Why are you bothering him?
Me: I'm not. Did you hear what he said?
Mom: I did.
Me: Can you help me out here?
Mom: You leave my son alone.
Me: I will, I am just wondering how I should explain this to my kids. Can you help me?
Mom: Listen buddy, if you can't solve your own problems, maybe you shouldn't have kids. (grabs son by elbow and walks away)
So, I guess I got told by the white trash Mom. I actually felt a little bad for the kid. He recognized he had said something inappropriate, but he could not figure out what it was or why. I imagine this word gets used regularly around his house and he is insensitive to it. His Mom is obviously not going to inform him.
I guess I should feel fortunate it took us 3.5 years to encounter the N word. I still have not told Marin what it means. Any ideas re how to address this?