In the early seventies, my great-aunt Myrtle would say the N-word at restaurants.
She’d always treat my family to a big meal at one of the Lithuanian joints near her Chicago south side brownstone. Myrtle was an old-school racist who detested people of color and everything else non-Lithuanian that was beginning to infiltrate her neighborhood. On more than one occasion, within easy earshot of a nearby black person, she’d start muttering “N!$$#r” loud enough for all to hear. That word pops out at you (it’s that harsh ‘NIHG’ sound) even if you’re only six and have no idea what it means.
But the adults at the table knew.
The first time it happened, my parents tried to ignore her and awkwardly change the topic. Eventually, though, my mother told her quite clearly (and loud enough for all to hear) how unacceptable that type of language is and threatened to end…
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