In the early days of Facebook, a group of my friends from high school were having a discussion about the n-word. I’m not sure how we got on that topic, but a white person ventured to state that it wasn’t used as an insult anymore. One of our black friends told the group that he had been called it, more than once, as a threat. One of my white friends responded that she was shocked, saddened, and disgusted to know that her dear friend had faced that particular oppression.
I was surprised at the conversation because most, if not all, black men have been insulted and threatened using that word. How did my 40-year-old friend not know that was the reality faced by every one of her black friends!? I think many black people keep that particular pain private. I don’t blame them for wanting to keep shame-inducing experiences hidden, rather than ‘come out’ about them. But their silence serves to keep white people in a bubble where they can maintain the belief that overt racism isn’t widely practiced.
I know the initial shame of coming out. And I know the enormous freedom that comes with it, too. Letting the right people, at the right time, know what is true about the painful parts of your life is a gift to both the speaker and the listener. May we learn to do both well. And may our comings-out bind us together, that we may be agents of love and justice for one another.