Life Advice



Family wrestles with accusation of racism

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: Last summer, my 10-year-old son learned a racial epithet (the "n word") from listening to his favorite music and watching his favorite basketball videos.

When we discovered that he had been listening to music with that word, we asked him to find clean versions. Although he is 10, he has the social maturity of a younger child.

Our son was confused (and still is) about the fact that it's a bad word when he says it, but a cool, fun word when others do (in videos, music, on the basketball court, and on the street).

He said the word in school and hurt a classmate's feelings. He felt terrible, apologized for the offense, and the two became very good friends for the rest of the school year.

The entire town found out about it and painted him (and us) as racists. My husband and I are steadfast liberals raising our children to treat everyone with respect and dignity.

I've raised my boys reading multicultural books and have exposed them to multicultural events. He's a child and he made a mistake. He was forgiven by the other child, and he has learned from his mistake.


A year later, he's being called a racist in school and in our community. Advice?

-- Upset Family

Dear Family: Your son seems to have learned from his mistake. Let's ponder yours. You should not tell a child with "limited social understanding" to "find clean versions" of songs with lyrics featuring racial epithets. Your job is to teach and to lead, not to instruct your child to lead himself.

He gathered from watching various (obviously inappropriate) media at home that saying the "n-word" was cool. As parents, you know that it is NOT cool.


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