Steffanie Rivers

Steffanie Rivers

*I’ve often wondered how old white racists cope with the world we live in today.

A world where the POTUS is Black, and the white mayor-elect of NYC is married to a black woman; where anybody can sit at the front of the bus, everybody drinks from the same water fountain and where children attend the same schools regardless of race.

Although you can’t look at people and know what’s in their hearts when an old white person at the grocery store refuses the incidental touch that comes with passing my change to me at the register and instead places the money on the counter for me to pick up or won’t look me in the eye and part their lips to say “thank you” when I hold open a door for them to keep it from smacking them in the face, I can’t help but ponder if this person is an old racist dealing with their new reality.

Some self professed former racists have had a change of heart – to their credit. But for others, Oprah Winfrey said eventually they will just have to die ( because they probably are too set in their ways to change.

Yet here we are more than 45 years after Jim Crow, the latest era of openly accepted racial discrimination in America, and we find out that some black people allow themselves to be called the N-word – as a term of endearment – by certain white people. Charles Barkley’s commentary ( on a recent sports show admitted he is okay with white teammates calling black players N*gger in the locker room.

His comments came after LA Clippers player Matt Barnes tweeted the N-word after he was ejected from a basketball game defending teammate Blake Griffith. Barkley said he uses the N-word with and is called the N-word by his black and his white friends. And he doesn’t think it’s a problem as long as it’s done in private.

“Sometimes it’s homophobic, sometimes it’s sexist and a lot of times it’s racist” talk that goes on in the locker room, according to Barkley. But he said it’s not personal. Shaquille O’Neal as much as co-signed on what Barkley said. Kenny Anderson wasn’t there to comment.

While I agree with Barkley when he said the media should not dictate how black people interact with each other, I don’t have any friends, black or white, that I allow to call me anything other than my given name. And that’s not because somebody said I shouldn’t. That’s just the way it is. Even when some white co-workers who happen to be men call me “girl” – as in ‘Hey, girl! How’s it’s going?” – I feel as if he’s trying to disrespect me on the sly, replacing N*gger with girl. I’m okay with other women calling me girl as long as we already know each other. Call me crazy, but like Future, I’m just being honest. And I digress.

Okay, so a group of black people feel comfortable enough with each other to let the word flow freely amongst themselves. But who are these white “friends” who feel entitled to use N*gger as a term of endearment? I don’t know any people like that and don’t want to know them. And for the record I’m not someone who would allow it. If you can’t say it in mixed company chances are it’s not something that should be said at all.

If old white racists know this is going on they’re probably smiling on the inside at the thought of  being able to hurl the n-word at black people without repercussion.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. For questions, comments or speaking inquiries email her at [email protected].