My youngest nephew is on Twitter now. Why his father would let him do that when his Facebook account is just a wall of crap I’m not sure. He’s just too young. And yet, for his age, he’s pretty mature, due to his life being so hard. And it’s not like my brother or his wife would be able to enforce a social media moratorium so… yeah, not my kid. Not my problem.
But… among his first tweets on Twitter? The affectionate use of the term “my niggahs.” He has never, ever used that term around me. And I am pretty sure that he was quoting a rap song. And I am almost positive that he probably believes that there is a difference between “nigger” and “niggah.” I know how he thinks and I know how his mom thinks. Like I said, the use was clearly affectionate.
Here’s my problem. I think that my nephew, who is a young child, just hasn’t really thought about this. And he hasn’t had anyone talk to him about it. Yes, it’s racist as fuck, but he’s not tossing it around to intentionally disparage someone. He’s repeating lyrics of the rappers he admires. But, like I said, he’s smart. I think that, if someone–say me–talked to him about it, told him that it’s a terrible word that it’s just too easy for people to misunderstand a young white boy’s use of, he’d get it.
So, this should be as easy as just talking to him the next time I call my brother. Except (and yes, I knew you’d know there was an “except” here) I’m afraid that, if my brother or sister-in-law learned I had gone out of my way to talk to him about it, the repercussions for him would be of a severity that I would find very upsetting. There’s a little bit of a weird class dynamic going on here where I’m often presented to my nephews as the “smart” one or the “successful” one or the “one with money.” And I definitely get a feeling that the boys are not supposed to do or say anything around me that might embarrass their parents or there will be repercussions.
And I have my concerns that this particular behavior might be punished not because his parents think it’s wrong or want him to stop, but because he did something I had to reprimand him for.
So, it kind of sucks but I think I’m going to have to wait until I see him in person. We do get time to talk alone then and I can address it and he can ask me questions and we can discuss how words mean different things when different people use them without worrying about bringing the wrath of god down on him.
I guess that’s the way to go.