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I WILL BREATHE – PART 6 (Nigger)


I had some really cool friends in elementary school​, and what made it fun to be around them was the fact that we all shared different cultural background​s. My friend Pat’s parents were Portuguese, Jon was half Latino, Rouk was an Arab immigrant, Jeff and Terry were the ‘’white boys’’ of the clique​, and Jean was just like me, a child of Haitian immigrants. We ​basically could have called ourselves the United Nations. Even though a lot of variety was present in our group, ​there was one thing that ​we all shared: sports. We would hang out after school and play all kinds of games until dusk. I believe that a good chunk of our bonding happened through competitive activities​. For some time, it was during those various games ​that our multicultural medley used to bring forth so many friendly racist jokes, stereotypical comments​, and even conflicts ​which we all took with a grain of salt. ​Ironically, that may be the thing I miss the most; our innocent and nonchalant aptness to mock our various heritages, in a good or bad way, while still being capable of embracing them. Sadly, the older we got​, the more our ethnic identities became a divider more than a unifying tool.


The most overriding racial incident that I can recall from my elementary school days was when my Latino friend and I were having a roast session right in front of my house. Unfortunately, this time, the slanders escalated, ​and he reached a point where he started calling me a ‘’nigger’’. After hearing that racial slur, I intensified our verbal dispute by unleashing the ultimate trump card insult; I called his mom, who had passed away, a whore. I know, right? The ultimate low blow. You can already guess that my insult led us to a fist fight. Thankfully, my neighbor from across the street saw us and started shouting at us to stop the scuffle. Once our fight was interrupted, my friend grabbed his bike and left as I walked back into my house with a heart full of rage.


With hindsight, I ​now realize that, at the time, the problem was that I was​absolutely convinced that the n-word ​held a greater disrespect value than the horrible insult I had made about my friend’s deceased mother. Today, having lived through my fair share of experiences, I now find that our collective lack of wisdom and maturity exposes how we are fundamentally poisoned with the reflex of hierarchizing our values and sufferings. In other words, it is the classic case of ''my pain is always worse than my neighbor's, and therefore, I am entitled to a wider range of evil acts to soothe my pain''. Human suffering is all too universal and essential, so it is often fragmented and manipulated in various selfish ways. So, what else can I do but desperately try to be hopeful for a solution to our wickedness? As I am writing this, with a weary look on my face, I must start looking at the road to peace as a process that should not be seen as an attempt to completely eradicate our evildoing; rather, it would be worth the try to examine the overratedness and overvaluing of our sufferings. This is, again, the typical me trying to share an idealistic proposition to encourage people to prioritize introspection​s opposed to messy externalizations of their feelings or opinions. We are extremely different, yet inevitably called to coexist and attain a certain level of homogeneity. To me, it is our eternal societal battle.


To conclude, I wish that I could blame that horrible verbal exchange between my Latino friend and me on the fact that we were young, dumb, and full of…some. But unfortunately, the same patterns appear in us grown folks, and they are manifested on a daily basis. I will end by saying this: one thing we all have in common is the air we breathe. So, let’s all inhale it all together, hold it in, pause, and think. One thing that separates us is how we use the air we hold in our lungs. And because it is said that we speak on the exhale, let's ask ourselves if we are about to waste our breath... or speak life into the world.



''So, let’s all inhale it all together, hold it in, pause, and think. One thing that separates us is how we use the air we hold in our lungs. And because it is said that we speak on the exhale, let's ask ourselves if we are about to waste our breath... or speak life into the world.''


- 7 in the AM




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