I Am So Sorry, Rosie. I Didn’t Know.

black maidPlease excuse the offensive word used in context in this story.

Rosie was beautiful, the first black woman I ever knew.  She tolerated my stroking her creamy, caramel-colored legs as she washed dishes or ironed. Her crisply starched cotton housedresses smelled just like sunshine.  Normally, I trailed my mother, but on the days Rosie was there, she couldn’t stop suddenly without my bumping her.  Rosie ate standing up at the kitchen counter with her own special dishes while I ate at the kitchen table.  I wanted to eat standing at the counter with her but wasn’t tall enough.  One day as we ate, she told me she had a little girl.  Pearl was three years old, just my age,  Three years old.  I was enchanted.  “Is she a nigger girl?”  Rosie’s face fell.

“Don’t say ‘nigger.’  That’s a mean word. Say ‘colored’.”  I was surprised Rosie corrected me, not knowing I’d done anything wrong.   I was also surprised to hear “nigger” was a mean word.  I’d heard it many times.

Rosie said no more.  I was relieved when she seemed to have forgiven me, soon allowing me to hug her and stroke her beautiful, smooth legs as she worked along.

It was years before I realized how deeply I’d hurt her.  I am so, so sorry Rosie.  I wish I could unsay that awful thing.

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24 thoughts on “I Am So Sorry, Rosie. I Didn’t Know.

  1. So many people grew up hearing that word, not knowing how deeply it could cut. I’m thankful it wasn’t used in my home growing up. At least you didn’t continue with it, as, unfortunately, many in that era have. It’s an awful word, and it surprises me when I hear it today. It makes me cringe. This is a beautiful post, and a great thing to do and say. You rock, Mrs. Linda!

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  2. You didn’t know better. And I’m sure she was aware of this. She taught you something and I’m sure that that must have made her feel better about it too. She was able to plant a little seed deep inside you and there was hope that this seed eventually would help her and everyone else in her position to finally live a better life.

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  3. A brave post. I am sure she knew you were innocent, and maybe she felt good that she had the chance to teach you not to use the word, while you were still so young. As children we knew no better. I certainly learned the counting rhyme ‘Eenie, meanie, miny, mo’ and when my children were little, I started to say it to them and luckily realised where it was going and substituted the word with ‘fishy’ for the ‘n’ word. I still feel guilty about that!

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