My Six Year Old, Learning Racial Slurs from the Neighbor Kid (grrrrrr)

Okay, so we have this kid in our neighborhood. He is pretty odd at times and tends to make adults feel uncomfortable. Weird uncomfortable. He just says a ton of odd things that maybe a six year old shouldn't say, or can't understand why he would say, I don't know just weird stuff.

Like one day he was over at my house and he asked me, "Are different when I am not around?". To which I curiously reply, "No, why do you ask?". Then he proceeds to go on about how he thought that I was different than I am and just to nevermind. I wanted to know if I was different good or different bad. At least he thought I was different good, but still - weird question coming from a six year old right?

If any of you watch Desperate Housewives, remember last weeks episode about Eddie as a kid? He's weird like that. Says and does stuff like that. Only I'm not saying that he is going to turn into a serial killer or anything but this is the best example that I can think of that describes this boy's odd behavior to a tee.

Anyways, on Tuesday he called Oscar and just wanted to chat it up with him on the phone. That in itself I have always thought was a little weird. Oscar doesn't like to use the phone, most six year old boys don't, at least the ones that I know. Whatever. Because Oscar doesn't really know how to use the phone properly I always put it on speaker whenever he is talking to someone to make it easier for him. Chatting with this kid is no exception.

So the conversation starts off pretty normal, when can he play at his house again - typical stuff. Then it took an interesting turn. This boy asked Oscar where he was in our house. Oscar told him, in the kitchen. He then asked Oscar to go upstairs, to his bedroom and shut the door. He wanted to tell Oscar a secret, a secret that Oscar had to swear not to share with anyone.

Obviously, this peaked my interest. There should be no reason whatsoever in my opinion that six year olds have secrets - that I can't know about. So, naturally I followed him all ninja like so I could hear what the hell was going on in there. Keep in mind - speaker phone is still on and I can hear everything pretty well, so I intently listen to see what the big deal is. Then I hear a little something like this...

", you know that they call black people (insert worst racial slur ever here) right? Yeah, did you know that, Oscar? people.....(racial slur, again)..."

Upon hearing this I bust into the room! Oscar has no clue what the hell is going on. I'm not even sure if he really was even paying attention to what that kid said. He's not a very good phone listener. But my eyes are telling him that something is definitely wrong. I told him that he needed to hang up the phone, we needed to talk.

I told him what I heard, and then asked him if what I heard is what I thought I heard. I mean, I didn't want to be calling someone's mother about something like this if I was wrong. Its a hard enough conversation to have with my kid let alone another adult - especially when I am accusing their son of sharing the info in the first place.

Oscar seemed pretty confused about the whole thing. He did tell me that what I said sounded pretty much like what that kid said. I was in shock for a moment. I never thought that I would have to have this conversation with my kid at this young of an age. Thanks neighbor kid, thanks for that!

I explain that he is never, ever under any circumstances to use that word. That word is worse than any cuss word out there. It is only meant to hurt someone based on the color of their skin.

Then, this is the part that had me in tears. I never really have explained to Oscar the difference in skin color between his dad and myself. It is clear that his Dad and their family look different than me and my family but we just don't talk about it.

I told Oscar that there are bad names for every skin color out there, none of them are meant in a nice way. Its not fair to call someone a name that applies only to their skin color, its hurtful. I said, "You know that Mommy and Daddy have different colored skin right? We don't really talk about it because it doesn't mean anything to us. Skin color doesn't define you as a person. We love each other for who we are on the inside."

(just in case you don't know me and are reading this, I am white and my husband is from El Salvador)

I went on to say, "You and your brothers are special because you are half of Daddy and half of Mommy. You wouldn't want someone to call you a name just because of what you look like, you can't help it, your were born that way. We are all born one color or another and our differences is what make us unique and special"

He looked at me and quietly whispered, "I'm half brown and half white"

I told him that he was right, and that he should be proud of who he his and where he comes from. My son is a smart little dude. He knows what's up. I love that he will play with any kid. I think that most kids that are exposed to diversity, whether at home or in the classroom, don't see color. I mean, they probably see it, but don't think twice about it.

That is until somebody brings it up and points it out to them. Again, thanks weird neighbor kid!!

Anyways, now I had to call this kid's mom and tell her what happened. Not an easy task. I like his mom and all but she can be kind of abrasive. She is really funny and cool, but she and her kids have been through a lot. Exposed to more situations than most people should have to be. I knew this was gonna be tough but I felt that I had no choice, I had to tell her.

And to be honest, I was pissed. Pissed that I had to mention this whole thing, to her or to my kid. The whole thing just sucked.

I sent her a text telling her that we needed to talk about something that her kid said to my kid. I'm sure her parent "Oh shit!" alarm was going off.

She called and then I explained to her what had happened. She told me, which as I am sure any adult called in this situation would, that that type of language was not tolerated in her house and she would get to the bottom of it. Great.

Five minutes goes by and she calls me back. She goes on to explain that is kind of a funny story, but not really. I'm all ears. Seriously, I would love to hear the defense argument for this.

She then tells me that for some reason her son has been listening to the band Nickelback a lot lately. He has been asking them if the lead singer of Nickelback is a black guy. So you see.... Nickel...back.....(racial slur) and black.... That's what I must have heard.

Okay - I'm not a total idiot. Not for one second did I believe this ridiculous story. I mean, come on! Nickelback? Those are a bunch of rocker white dudes! I told her the part that doesn't really add up to me is that if he was really talking about Nickelback, why did he want it to be a secret? Why did he want Oscar to go to his room and close the door to tell him about Nickelback?

Yeah, let's just say I will be monitoring how much interaction my kid has with her kid from this point forward. I all ready thought that he said weird crap but this is unbelievable. Who knows what he would say to my kid if I'm not there!

Looking forward to awkwardness at the bus stop in the morning....ugh. Thank goodness Tammy is there so I don't have to chat it up with her by myself!


Anonymous said…
I know we like to be all non-judgmental and stuff these days, but it really is OK to not allow your kids to hang out with (sorry) bad children. This poor kid may not be able to help what he knows and sees, or how poorly he is raised, but you don't have to let it affect your own kid. You handled it well, though. I'd have completely freaked out.
Tammy said…
Good for you for writing this. Parents need to know that some 6/7 year olds don't have any idea what they are saying...odd is all I can!
blueviolet said…
I hate when kids start catching earfuls of things like that! I am just amazed at how stupid the story from that kid's mom was!
traciy reyes said…
You might enjoy our support group for White and Black Americans who are married to or dating Hispanic Latino Americans. It is called American and Hispanic Latino Couples on facebook.
mamawj said…
sad to say but kids get so much terrible ideas or slurs from tv or at school of in there familes from the things they hear the adults say and then they find themselves so curious and do not know how to address it to really know the right answers. I think you had the exact right words to tell your son, God made us all the same I feel no matter of our skin color /shape /size or physical abilites but unfortunitly some are ignorant to seeing that and the kids just repeat what they are taught. Maybe the next time you have to have the same talk again with your son you can do so with that little boys ears near so he can see the right way of thinking.
Anonymous said…
Nice. Just wait til the weirdo kid explains the birds and the bees to your kid. That ought to be a fun conversation!

So do you think the kid was smart enough to make up the story about Nickelback or do you think the mom made it up?
Dwalline said…
I am waiting for the day when i have to explain my feelings to my bfs daughter. She lives with her mom and we get her one day a week + weekends. Her moms family believes that races should not mix. The kicker is. Grandma has 2 kids that are adopted and are black, whereas the rest of the family is white ( oh and grandma lives on the same block as her). Eventually i know my bfs daughter is going to be like umm hello? we have black people in the family how can they be bad? Now we are in a pretty rual area so its not like there are a lot of other races around and they do teach her to be nice to everyone and you shouldnt be mean b/c someone looks different so i really dont understand why if she started hanging out with another race or in the future started dating another race why it would be a big deal. I grew up on long island and other races (and sexual orientation) were no big deal. It was never really an issue because its really all we knew i guess. We never talked about so and do dating so and so of a different race or that so and so was gay. Now that im way upstate i see a lot of people are more close-minded and old fashioned i guess.
Imaginative Me said…
Oh My Gosh! I would be pretty upset myself in that situation! That's crazy!!
Kelli said…
Hopped over from SITS and I am glad I did! Ahh, I am so sorry you had to go through that! We too have an odd kid in our neighborhood who I don't like hanging out with my son, my son doesn't like him either but the drawback of raising a polite child is that he won't tell him that so we all have to put up with the odd kid.

~Kelli @ Smidgens
I am appalled! I dont know what bothers me the most; the fact that the kid KNOWS that word at 6 (and shared it with Oscar!), or the fact that mom seems to have created a story to excuse her son's behavior. What other things is he going to do in life that she will just excuse with a lame story? I see worse issues in her future (and unfortunately yours if her kid keeps hanging around sweet Oscar).
Aisha said…
i wanted to cry when i read this i wanted to reach through the phone and slap her really Nickelback, do we look stupid biotch accept the fact that your kid did something wrong otherwise later on her kid will be the kid on the news and she'll be trying to explain "he didn't really mean to rob the store, he was just role playing get it" ugh people like her just annoy me so much because she doesn't take this seriously now the kid is going to go up to someone else's child and get the taste slapped outta his mouth for saying that to the wrong kid
sheila said…
Sounds to me like the whole Nickelback thing is a lame excuse for something he probably heard at home. Maybe an off color remark from mom.

There's no way a 6 year old comes up with something like that by himself or on his own or from a Nickelback song.

First, how sad. And second, way to go on how you handled this one! And I agree with the comment from Aisha.

How sad.