About four months ago, I took my older son, Jojo, to the barber shop. I told the barber not to shave off all of Jojo’s hair and to just trim it. He then proceeded to shave Jojo’s head practically bald. ”Whoa, whoa, I told you that I did not want it bald, this is way too low!” I exclaimed.
"How can I tell you this?” said the black barber with clippers still in the front of Jojo’s hair. “You’ve got a real n****r here. He is a native boy. He is from the tribe. This ain’t pretty hair. This is the best cut for him." Despite the prevalence of the n-word in hip hop music, popular culture and the streets of my New York City neighborhood, I was both dumbfounded and devastated by the remark.
And I didn’t want to make a scene.
Because I’ve played the incident over and over in my mind since then, if I could go back in time, I know exactly what I would say. “Brother, this boy in front of you is my little king. How dare you refer to him as a ‘n****r’? That word was used to oppress us and it has no place coming out of your mouth or anyone else’s. His hair is magical. It defies gravity and replicates the DNA helix. If you can’t respect that magic, we have to leave.”
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