Did Donald Trump say it or didn’t he say it and does it matter if he said it. The it being the “N” word, which stands for you know what, the name given to Black Americans by white Americans when they want to denigrate Black people and to flex their white supremacist muscles.
Trump said he did not say it. Omarosa Manigault Newman said he said it. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she would not be surprised if there is a tape of him saying it. Georgia State Senator Michael Williams says it does not matter if Trump said it years before he became President.
Sen. Williams says he can excuse the term if it was used 50 years ago. However, I will have the Senator know this term was not acceptable 50 years ago, 100 years ago, or 240 years ago. The fact that Blacks were powerless to confront whites who used this term in yesteryear did not make it anymore acceptable back then, than now.
When I was in the ninth grade, I was one of a handful of Black boys from my neighborhood to integrate the Lanier Junior High School for Boys in Macon, Georgia. I had an old, wrinkled faced English teacher named Quida Poe. She was a distant relative of Edgar Allen Poe.
She was a staunch segregationist. It was said that she had retired at the end of the preceding school term, but that she had come out of retirement so she could run us back to the colored school. Of the 12 young men who braved the taunts, spitballs and fist fights that year, Poe was successful in sending two of them back to the colored school from whence they came.
But not this writer. During the 1965–66 school term, I endured 180 days of Poe’s racial hatred, punctuated by her calling me a nigger throughout my third period class. I was powerless to object, to say a word in my defense. I cringed every time that word rolled off her tongue. Had I objected, I would have been labeled a troublemaker, perhaps sent to the principal for discipline, and ultimately suspended from school.
My sweet revenge was that I could diagram sentences better than any white boy in the class. At the colored school, they began teaching children how to diagram sentences in the third grade. I was an expert by the time Poe tried to embarrass me at the blackboard in front of the class.
Yet she would have the last word. When I would confound the class and her with my ability to diagram the King’s English, she would remark: “I don’t see why the niggers don’t want to stay at their own schools.”
A few weeks ago, I responded to a Facebook page for people who had attended this junior and senior high school. The question posed was who was your favorite teacher. With tongue in cheek, I quipped: “Certainly not, Quida Poe.”
A white student replied Poe was an excellent teacher. I responded that I disliked the fact that she called me a nigger every single day. One would have thought that other former students would have understood how it would be impossible for me to have anything good to say about this particular teacher. However, this was not the case. Several white students, who heretofore, had not identified Poe as their favorite teacher, felt it necessary to opine on my comment, by saying that Poe was the best teacher they had during the Lanier experience.
Let me put these comments into perspective. Five years after we integrated this school it was merged with the colored school in the same school zone, thus it has been 48 years since anyone attended this school, which means that those who did not find any sympathy with me 48 years later, were people who are at least 66 years old or older.
Therefore, whether they are liberal in their thinking today or not, they can not come to the realization that language freely used in their homes and segregated groups 48 years ago was not acceptable and if not condemned then, certainly should be condemned today.
So if he did (and Trump looks like a cracker who would have said it), or if he didn’t say it, or said it long before becoming President, it matters that it was said, period.
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine, Medium and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org