“Did YOU look in the mirror LATELY?”

The child in this video, Cici, is so cool in rebutting an ugly, hurtful verbal attack that watching it made me rethink how I judge myself. So much for introductions. Watch and judge for yourself:

 

As beautiful as this is, it would be an injustice not to note the couple of sad, poignant moments when it’s as though she’s just then realizing the pain of being called ugly. This is important to point out because not to do so would be to rob her of her humanity by reducing her to no more than the subject of entertainment rather than the lesson in gracious living she actually is in these moments.

This video reminds me of a similar incident from my childhood, although one I brought on myself. As the only black child in some of my classes from elementary through high school in my Arizona hometown, I stood out from the others, obviously. In the fifth grade, I believe it was, when my class was studying the Civil War or slavery, or something from an earlier time in American history, one of my classmates, a male whom I didn’t get along with, was having trouble articulating or dealing with the subject matter in response to the teacher’s calling on him.

Thinking back, I can’t remember if he had a speech impediment or just couldn’t figure out how best to say what he was trying to say. Whatever the case, I chimed in from a couple of rows across the room, “You’re getting redder by the minute, [name]!” Giggle, giggle.

Irritated and with no hesitation whatsoever, he swiftly shifted toward me and loudly said, “And you’re getting blacker by the minute.”

To put this in context, it happened in the 1950s, long before it was acceptable to call black people black. It was, in fact, the height of horror to be called a “black nigger” or to be told to “go back to Africa where you came from.” So hearing my classmate call me black, in front of the entire class, at that, left me stunned and ashamed.

I had no rebuttal to my classmate; indeed, there was nothing to rebut. Still, when I saw the classmate over 40 years later at our high school reunion, that moment instantly came to mind. To my surprise, though, he hugged me warmly enough when we met during the reception and later made a point of taking a picture with me.

Does this mean we apologized to each other for that long-ago childhood scuffle? That he, like I, had never forgotten it? I’ll have to ask him at the next reunion.



Categories: Childhood and children, Education, Human condition

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