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Urban Baby Blog: Spic-able Me

Editor’s Note:  This opinion piece contains strong language.   

My daughter’s favorite movie (right now anyway) is “Despicable Me”. While on a long drive upstate a couple of weeks ago she watched it over and over. This is fine, and keeps her quiet in the car, but Adi had a bit of trouble pronouncing the title of the movie.

She calls it “Spic-able Me” most of the time. When she doesn’t call it that she calls it “the spic movie.”

The spic movie. The first time she said it, she was talking to my (Puerto Rican) father about the movie. He knew what she was talking about and we both couldn’t help but laugh. That was a mistake. Now Adi thinks the word spic is funny for some reason. I mean, of course it is–in her world, it’s in the title of a popular movie.

I’m now faced with the decision of whether or not to explain racial slurs (spic included) to an almost 3-year-old and what they mean and how through no fault of her own there are people out there in the world who think less of her because of her ethnic backgrounds. In Adi’s world everyone looks different from everyone else. Even in our own family there are tons of different facial features, skin colors, and languages. The idea that racism is out there and can hurt people -herself included- is still a very foreign thing to her.

I remember the first time I heard the word spic. I was very small, older than Adi but not much, and my mother had invited one of her friends over. She had a son a year older than me. This wasn’t a casual friend either. My mom was friends with this woman, and this woman was even a bridesmaid at my parents’ wedding. Anyway, this woman and her family were very late in coming to our house. There was a car accident or a building fire or maybe a car crashed into a building that burst into flames (I was only 4 so the memory is a bit fuzzy) that caused them to be late. The woman, very angry that this situation caused her delay, said (and despite being only four this part of the story is not the least bit fuzzy on my memory) “They should have just had the spics jump out the window”

Basically, she was upset that Puerto Ricans, needing rescue from a dangerous situation, caused her gringo behind to be late for a non-urgent lunch date.

My fellow spics, if you need to be rescued from something don’t call 911. Just jump out the window. If the road is blocked by rescuers you might make someone late to brunch. We just can’t have that. People who brunch are like vampires except instead of blood they feed on hollandaise and mimosas.

So anyway, my mother flipped out. My father, who was also there (my mom’s friend’s racism made her so dumb that she forgot to hide said racism) didn’t flip out. I think my mom flipped out because she was angry that such a close friend would disrespect her husband and kids like that. I think my father didn’t flip out because, well, as a Puerto Rican he was probably already used to hearing racial slurs like that. Because through no fault of his own there are people out there in the world who think less of him because of his ethnic background.

My mother and this woman haven’t spoken since – after being friends for years. After the incident, my mom had “the talk” with me. Not the sex talk, but the racist talk. It’s the talk that all Jewish or Black or Hispanic or Muslim or Whatever parents have to give to their kids because that’s the world we live in. Because through no fault of my own there are people out there in the world who think less of me because of my ethnic background. I’ve had both Jewish and Hispanic racial slurs hurled in my direction over the years. I’ve even combined spic and kike into spike for the sake of convenience.

Obviously Adi throwing the word spic around is unacceptable, but I’m just not ready to burst her world peace bubble just yet. Maybe I should just get her hooked on Lion King or something.

Urban Baby Blog: Spic able Me rachel levin figueroa revised nbc parenting family NBC Latino News

Rachel Figueroa-Levin is a soapmaker, cofounder and educator at Urban Babywearing, a hyperlocal Inwood blogger and organizer, a political/life/religion/parenting satirist, and all around trouble maker.  She is also the creator of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Spanish-speaking alter ego @elbloombito.  You can reach her via twitter @Jewyorican

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