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- Growing Up Bronx
Let me give you a bit about my history, for perspective. I’m Puerto Rican, born in Mayaguez, and raised in the South Bronx. For all intents and purposes, based on my historical criteria, I am fully authorized to use the N word. By that I mean, I grew up with folks that used this word in a non-racist way. It was simply a part of our vocabulary in the hood.
The N word is one of those words that some people use to hurt, while others use it as a term of endearment. Where I come from, it is the latter. Everyone around me used the N word regularly. It was just a part of everyday life. To this day, when I hang out with certain friends, they still say to me “What’s up my n*gga?” I can assure you that there are no racist undertones, for some of my people this word is simply a part of life. Just like it was for me as a kid and teenager in the Bronx. Difference today is that I reply with “What’s up my brother.”
These days I am far from the hood. I no longer hang out on the street corner with my boys. I am not getting into brawls on the Grand Concourse with the Dominicans. I don’t wear saggy pants and giant shirts, and the only guns I shoot now are legally owned. I no longer associate or hang out with gang bangers, or stickup kids. Nope, I’m a straight shooter these days, literally.
The hood doesn’t care about all that I did back in the days. It’s like one of those friends who says, “What have you done for me lately?” Truth is, I haven’t done much for the hood these days. Once I could fly, I flew fast and hard, and moved on. The hood knows this. It knows that I’m not about that life anymore.
Most people that meet me today think that I grew up in an affluent community. I’m so far separated from the street that some have gone so far as to say that I am lucky I’m white. Apparently, this is why I have had a certain degree of success in life. That’s a totally different topic, and we won’t get into that one. Let’s just say, that telling me that I am lucky, and born with a silver spoon makes me want to kick the crap out of you. It completely discredits all the hard work I did growing up. It ignores all the beatings and the abuse I endured while going to school in the hood.
It’s actually pretty funny in hindsight. This weekend we took my mom out to dinner. As we drove from 167th Street in the Bronx, via the Grand Concourse past Fordham Road, I pointed out all the places I was robbed, jumped, in brawls, shot at, and so on. My mom was in shock. She had no idea about the things I endured to get in and out of school. My middle sister has also expressed surprise at some of my war stories. It’s weird how they had no idea of what was really happening. Although towards the latter years, my family noticed that something was wrong, and that I was reaching a breaking point. That’s when they made me get help from Freddy Baez.
All that being said, maybe you can understand why I would want to kick the crap out of you if you think I was gifted with my position in life. It’s not like I’m wealthy, but I live somewhat comfortably. I’m raising my son to have a better experience in life than I did. He’s starting high school this year, so far he has not been in any big fights. He’s never been jumped or mobbed by young punks. So I take comfort that we are headed the right direction. Elementary school was tough, but things got truly bad for me in Junior high school. That’s where it really hit the fan. My son is already passed that, so we are ahead of the game.
Anyway, so that should give you some perspective on who I am, and what I have lived. Now the rest of this story will make more sense.
Most of you know that I am a musician, I make rap, rock and pop songs. Sometime ago I was at an open mic, and anybody who has seen me perform knows that I am a really passionate performer.
So one of my buddies started to make sounds mocking me and my intensity as I performed. Though I was focused, I could hear him, and I began to laugh and giggle. After I finished my song, for a moment, my filters were down. I reverted to talk the way I used to back in the days with my homies in high school. I pointed at my friend and said:
This n*gga right here is a trip. You a crazy motherf*cker my n*gga.
I said something, to that effect, and then I noticed everyone’s face go blank. The few white folks present went even more pale, and the majority of people made up of black and Spanish folks looked at me like I was a crazy person with a death wish. At that point, I realized what I had done. Oops. I said the N word. Truth be told, I no longer use this word. First, I don’t believe it is a good word, and more importantly; I don’t fit the image of a person that can actually get away with it. However, on that day, I slipped up.
So what now? Do I acknowledge my blunder? Am I supposed to apologize? Here is where I was lucky, no one was filming this! I didn’t become the next Internet sensation, for all the wrong reasons. Fortunately, I wasn’t important enough for anyone to pursue my crucifixion. Furthermore, from my time leading in school and the military, I’ve had a lot training in damage control. I have read many books on the psychology of people, and of course; you can’t forget straight-up life experience, and those street survival instincts I developed in the hood.
I decided to treat this the way you should react when a child falls and busts their butt. More often than not, the child will look at the guardian first. If the person freaks out and begins to baby them, the child will begin to scream. If you look at them as if nothing happened, they’ll generally get up, laugh it off and keep playing. Use your proper judgement applying this technique. If the child is bleeding profusely, then it’s OK to freak out and help them. I’m referencing a little tumble, not serious injury. In any case, I didn’t acknowledge what happened, I introduced my next rap song, and carried on with my performance.
All this happened within split seconds. It’s funny to me these days. Clearly, I didn’t mean anything racist by it, but you never know how people will take things. If I was cautious before, now I’m even more wary. Cause, oops, I said the N word!
Growing Up Bronx