Society must take the power of words away

Dear Editor:

I recently read the article,” Pretty [Penny] Cafe vandalized with racial slur” which appeared in your Jan. 15, 2015 edition of the Mountain Messenger. I am an African American female. My husband and I raised three very “light complexioned sons.” My husband was active duty Navy for more than 20 years, which allowed our family to live all over the country and travel outside of the country. Needless to say my sons’ have a very diverse background.

By the time my sons were 6 years old, they had heard the words, nigger, kike, cracker, coon, heab, and many others. They heard those words from my husband and me. Sounds harsh? Let me put it into context.

As parents we decided to educate our sons that people assign derogatory meanings to words. Reading or writing a word does not give the word power. Society’s reaction gives words power. That power can be positive, negative or neutral depending on the response the sender is wishing to incite.

The word “nigger” continues to exhilarate the sender and hurt, confuse and frustrate the receiver.

We as a society must take the power away from that word. We can no longer allow ourselves to be held emotionally hostage by a word. Should we be concerned when we see it? Of course, just like we would if we saw a swastika plastered on the side of a business.

The emotion we want to carry when something like this happens is anger not fear. Anger because no one should have to be washing off ignorance in freezing weather. Anger because whoever raised that misguided soul did a very poor job. Anger because the children of the community have had a little bit of their innocence stolen.

Then when the anger subsides, we pray for that misguided soul. That soul was so lonely that all they could think to do was reach out and hurt a neighbor. We cannot allow ourselves to be held hostage by ignorance. We start by teaching our children that there are such people in the world. We desensitize them to the hate action. We then educate them to have an intelligent and forgiving counteraction. We can start by remembering the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

My prayers go out to Ms. Campell, her family and the community and yes, to that misguided soul as well.

Kathryn Ashe

Virginia Beach VA


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