Does that offend you? Well, how do you think I felt having those words hurled at me?
Even before the shock wore off, I got into analyzing mode. Did he mean niggas, like his dawgs, his peeps? Did he mean niggaz because I’m are so cool? Nope, he was angry. He meant niggers!!!
So this was what happened. It was a Sunday morning, and what do non-churchgoers do on a Sunday morning, the one day of the week where there are no kids to drop off, no kids to pick up, no games to watch, no concerts to watch? Well, if you’ve had a really tough winter like we did, and on that Sunday you were gifted with awesome weather, then you go to exercise – take a few laps around the tracks, play some tennis. So there I was playing some great tennis, if I do say so myself. And you know what, I do say so myself. Not only was I returning the balls, but they were actually making it on the court. I was making my husband work for his points. I was getting some much needed exercise. I was enjoying the great weather, finally.
So the tennis courts are pretty close to the streets, and the next thing I know I hear the horn of a greyish/creamish pickup. I’m thinking that I don’t know anyone who drives that color pickup, but since the horn was directed at me, I conceded. I’m thinking it’s almost 8 am, on a Sunday morning at that, so who could it be, and would they even be able to recognize me? Hey, it must be my neighbor down the street. Sharon is always on the go, and always early. But no, it’s not a dreadlocked Black woman with an ever present smile. Wait, John, another neighbor has a similar pickup. But why would John be up that early? And there is no way he would have recognized me playing tennis. But since all of this is happening in seconds, although it felt like slow motion, I finalized that it is John and waved.
OH……MY……GOD! It wasn’t John either. It was some frigging rednecks. And with venom, one of them screamed those words at me and my husband. And the first thought that came to my mind was, “Is that how they see me?” I don’t see myself as a nigger, or even a nigga, and certainly not one of the niggaz. Those words are not even in my vernacular. I don’t even like to hear them in songs. Then I remembered; this is not the first time. Please, not even the second time. In hindsight, the kids and I have been subjected to that as we played tennis. But since it always sounded like an afterthought, we’d go like, “Did they just say that?” But never had I heard it so clearly; and never was it directed at me so potently.
Then as I tried to get my head back in the game, I thought, “Wait, what if that man is the husband of one of my kids’ teachers?” Or even worse, “What if he’s an actual teacher?” Or the worst, “What if he’s the father of one of my kids’ friends and has hosted my child for a sleepover?” Oh no, what if he’s smiled at me in the past because our paths crossed. But would he have done that, knowing that he had such words in his heart? Could be. Oh shit, what if he’s on the school board? Oh please don’t let him be the cop that ever finds the need to pull me over. After all, I am usually going 15 to 20 miles over the speed limit. They are just suggestions, right? I mean, nobody really drives 40 miles per hour. And who drives 55 on the highway? Not even grannies! Geez, he better not be a prosecutor, judge, or lawmaker. The list was endless.
But before I finally got my head back in the game, I thought to myself, so what if I was a nigger? Does that mean that I don’t pay taxes and don’t deserve to use the tennis courts? Can I not be in my own community? Don’t I belong here? And it got me thinking, even if a person is a nigger or a redneck, an evangelical or an atheist, a liberal or a conservative, gay or straight, obese or skinny, perspectively speaking, he or she still has the right to enjoy a game of tennis without being bullied.