The “N” Word


I grew up with the N word. I do believe my mother may have been the most racist person I have ever known. Her racism however did something positive to me; it gave me great empathy for those different from myself. This experience made me seek diversity as I grew up. My mother didn’t like Jews, African Americans, the Irish, and Italians; come to think of it she did not like anyone. My family did not have television when we were children. One summer I was sent to Maryland. I was at that time showing an interest in boys and apparently behaving badly. I was placed upon a Greyhound bus in Manchester, Vermont and got off somewhere in Maryland. With my little transistor radio close to my ear I listened to the news regarding the March on Washington. I was deeply moved even enraged by the injustice that I heard. Oh how I longed to get off that bus and join Civil Rights Workers as they marched on Washington! This was a defining moment in my life.

yellow butterfly
alights upon the barley
distant lightening

This is gratefully shared at Poets United Poetry Pantry

Forgive me. I had not realized when I wrote this that we had a Disney theme this week.

22 thoughts on “The “N” Word

  1. Liz, there is no Disney theme at Poetry Pantry this week. There was at dVerse, but since I returned from Disney it has been fodder for a bit of poetry, thus my poem. It is interesting that you learned anti-racism from your mother who was racist. That was a very positive thing, and you must have been very perceptive to take your own MUCH more accepting stance on the subject. Enjoyed reading about your defining moment!

    • Hi Mary – good about Disney. Sorry to be so late responding. Ill. Ill. Ill. And really sick of it. Even getting kind of angry about now. There were three of us kids. I was the oldest. We are all estranged, but I can say that my mother’s racism and excessive classism turned each of us into compassionate and empathetic persons. For that I am grateful. Thank you.

  2. Liz,

    It was interesting to read your personal encounter with racism, through your mother.
    I encountered racism through strangers mainly, in Northern Ireland. Judged by the school unifrom I wore, or that subsequently worn by my own children. Judged by the perceived religious affiliation because of our christian names..or indeed surnames.
    However, I also heard the most damning racism from the mouth of a white Bell-Hop in Atlanta in 2008…Unbelievablely bad and my closest encounter with racism, by colour alone. Sad memories…


    • Hi Eileen, it is so nice to see you. For some reason I recall not long ago attempting to go onto one of your blogs only to be told that I could not – can’t remember why right now. Oh yes, I think about you and the hell of Northern Ireland, I really do. It bothers me a good bit, both what you have endured and what still takes place there.

      The SOUTH? What a joke! I grew up in NY and New England. Today I live in the mid-west in St Louis – a state sitting on both sides of the civil war. It can be very racist here to. I live in the city itself as I choose diversity. Thanks for finding me again.

  3. My family was racist too and out of that sprang me and my kids – about as inclusive a people as you could ever meet. Amazing how that works. I feel deeply about the civil rights movement too. I love your haibun – and loved seeing your name in the Pantry. I went “yippee! It’s Liz!” Great poem, kiddo.

  4. What a defining moment ~ Love that you took your mother’s hatred for the word, to embrace all other new things in life and people ~ The image of the yellow butterfly is lovely too ~

    • Hi Grace – I wonder if the bottomless pit of hatred really isn’t bottomless. I wonder if thru my mother’s hatred I found the bottom and there was no way to go but up. Thanks.

  5. i like that the way your mother thought made you sensitive to go a different way and how it opened you mind and heart for others.. love that butterfly image you leave us with

  6. i think it is pretty cool how it had the adverse affect on you and i am glad that it did and inspired in you empathy for others…what a hard world it is to live in when you are so filled with hate eh? love the close as well liz…

    i take it you are feeling better?

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