“So what they called you a Nigger!”- Lessons Learned in Lexington

I grew up in the south in a small town called Lexington, SC. Population approximately 17,500 people with 85 percent of them being white. So it was not unusual to be called a nigger. When I was in high school being called a nigger by a white boy was an instant see you after school problem-fighting on school ground was instant suspension and my mother was not playing that, regardless. It was not out of the norm to see 25 white boys watch as 10 black boys enter into a field to battle. We would knuckle up with each other but turn around and have to sit in class with them the next day.

Around my senior year, I started to really spread my wings as a superb athlete in basketball and baseball. Though, I loved the game of basketball, baseball was the sport that I knew would take me places. My senior year, we won the state championship in baseball and became one of the best teams in the nation. But the defining moment of that year was a response that I got from my father. I happen to be disgusted about one of my teammates calling me a nigger and was going kill the boy. The coach stopped me and pulled me to the side and apologized for his comments. (Let me add that I was the only black on the team.) I am not sure what he said to the boy or if he said anything at all but I know how I felt. That moment left me in isolation from the rest of the team for the rest of year outside of my man, Drew. Drew was my neighbor, black and he was the athletic trainer. We pretty much stuck together the rest of the year because we knew the culture that we were dealing with at Lexington High School.

I remember going home and telling my parents about the ordeal and being shocked, so to speak, that they were not shocked. But the profound moment came when my father said, “So what they called you a nigger.” Now my father is an intimating man upon sight (at least at the time, age has caught up with him)-6’2, 225 easily and strong . He spoke loud and did not take any shit. (his words not mine) He concluded that my job was to go to school, learn and perform on the field. I was not to mix words with the teachers, coaches, students or other players until they put their hands on me and once that happened, I was to tear their ass up (his words not mine.) From that day I chilled and relied on his words to be the guidepost for my senior year’s journey. I do not know if he called the school or any coach but I never had a problem with anyone else calling me a nigger-at least from my team.

That has been over 25 years ago and I still remember those words my father said to me, “So what they called you nigger.” It has taken me that long to understand the words that he spoke that day. My father was trying to get me to accentuate who I was over what they called me. He was trying to get me to see that I was more than who they proclaimed me to be by their statements. The problem that troubled me prior to his statement was that I fell into the trap of becoming the nigger they called me. “I let their perception of me become my reality “as my good friend, Len Jackson so intelligently bemoans to me frequently.

I find that many of my young brothers today fall into the same trap as I did. This trap caused me to become a mediocre student with grades that did not reflect my intelligence level. It caused me to be bitter for years toward all whites. It took me until my 35th birthday to peel back the psychological damage that I had let infiltrate my heart before my father’s words hit home with a stern punch.

The end result is that I learned to overlook ignorance from small people. I still do not like for white people to call me nigger or refer to other blacks as a nigger but I can tolerate it with intense bitterness-still a work in progress, nonetheless.(I have too model this behavior for my own son now) But the main objective is to live my life is such a fashion that if they do refer to me as a nigger then by the time it is all said and done they say to themselves, damn (my words not my father’s) I want to be like that nigger.

What happened after my teammate called me a nigger? Well, I went on to flourish the rest of the season while he sat on the bench. I went to college on a baseball scholarship as well as getting drafted while his career pretty much ended that day. So in the big scheme of things, “so what he called me a nigger.”  Now I may not respond like this all of the time but my mentality is such that I refuse to let someone define who I am. I chose who I want to be and when I want to be that person. One’s definition of Brian does not make me Brian but how I define myself is the key. I chose not to walk in ignorance, selfishness or hate because that just takes too much work. I walk in love, honor and integrity but I am not above getting in someone grill about nonsense.  I wish I could end with saying I will never respond to being called a nigger but I can’t,  but I can assure you that being called one want define my life.

Advertisements

14 thoughts on ““So what they called you a Nigger!”- Lessons Learned in Lexington

  1. I, as many others may not have realize how your life was at lexington High. I was very standoffish and had my own issues. I will say I respect your outlook today, and your dad was a very smart man. Lifes lessons are hard, but at the end who turned out to be the better man. Hope your boys understand that lesson early. I would hate ignorance of others to diminish their dreams.

    1. Audrey, it was a gift and a curse but in the end it proved to be more valuable than at times I realize. If I had a choice i would not go through it again but hindsight is what it is…

  2. Hey brother, You know I loved you then and I love you now!! I am so thankful for the grace of God, so that from now on “we regard no one according to the flesh.” The only hope in this is reconciliation and that reconciliation can only come in the one who is “reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespass against them.” Because, he “made him to be sin who knew no sin” so that we might become righteous.

    Brother, if I ever hurt you with my words or actions in this way please forgive me. It was foolishness. Thanks for this reminder. We definitely need to get up some time, I would love to hear from you. I’m in South Asia right now training pastors but I will be back in Lexington soon. Let me hear from you.

    Your brother,

    JP

    1. On the contrary brother, you and your brother were always upstanding with me. I have had a few meals at your parents house on more than a few occasions. Man you be safe over there and hit me up when you get back in the states. I would love to chat with you. Be safe and trust that the family is well.

  3. Brian
    Strong message my friend. Jesus and the Father see all His beloved ones as a chosen race, a peculiar people and it’s awesome when we walk in that together.
    Jim

    1. Jim no doubt that is the ultimate goal but seeing in practice in mass seems is nonexistence. We continually fall short due to our lack of being able to dialogue about what is true.

      1. We’re making baby steps as we forgive and love the way He loved us. Maybe if we learn to do it in small steps our children will learn to take bigger steps and we can break these generational sins. Or at least put a dent in them.

  4. Brian, my heart is breaking right now. Your Dad was the best coach ever – Tam was always a man who commanded/demanded respect and loyalty. I loved your Mom and when she has called (rarely 😉 it has made my day. You were truly blessed with the best parents ever. Heeding Tam’s advice was the best choice you ever made. I will always think of you as one of mine….For those at LHS who did say that to you, they are truly worthless pieces of human excrement. You are, always have been, always will be so special to Tom and me.

    1. Thank you Mrs. McMillan. I spent half of my life seeing you guys on a regular basis along with Sanders. My father was a hard man but I appreciate it so much now as i deal with the same issues with my son. I am who i am because of those very same events and definitely because of my parents and the young men I grew up playing baseball with and their parents. Thank you much and much love to you all.

  5. Brian, I didnt go to Lexington. I received your statement from my Pastor, Todd Carnes as he shared with all on FB. If Todd posts I know I want to know about it. As I was reading I noticed your article was heartbreaking while redeeming at the end. God Blessed you with His grace. I am with you. I grew up in the 60s. I lived across the street -directly in front of my school and the year 1971 all schools were desegragated. I was bused to Booker T. Washington down town. My heart cried many days in the beginning. Not for me, but for others who were so lost on both sides on the fence. Many were mistreated, many began the mistreatments. I am so proud of you for your posting this post. I know it took a lot of courage and deep deep soul searching. WOW only if All, both sides of the fence, would listen to God as you did and understand his mercy, Then too They could be free of Anger allowing their “self-world” shackles to be broken. Thank you so much for sharing with all of us. I pray for your continued grace! God is so good with His mercy so abundant.

    1. Todd is one of the few pastors in Lexington that get it without a doubt. We have had a few conversations about things of this sort and have managed to build a relationship from that dialog. Thank you for responding and sharing your thoughts as well. If more of us were able to be transparent we could reconcile many of the atrocities of Lexington and beyond. My father grew up in Lexington and I have heard worse stories than this but my parents never allowed me to use it as an excuse. So to the glory of God I can say that my heart holds no bitterness but it still is a constant battle. thank you again sister and may God grant us the grace to finish strong.

  6. PEACE TO YOU AND YOUR SON..THIS POST WAS A BLESSING AS MY DAUGHTER AND I TALKED ABOUT A TIME WHEN SHE WAS CALLED A NIGGER IN THE 4TH GRADE AND THE IMPACT THAT IT HAD ON HER …WE CAN RELATE TO THE FEELING OF ISOLATION AND THE EMPOWERING WORDS OF YOUR FATHER…PEACE

  7. Wow, what a powerful testimony!

    I certainly hope that things have changed (for the better) at Lexington HS. I’m pursuing an opportunity that would have my family moving to the Columbia, SC area and we are considering areas near Lexington HS as well as some areas near Dutch Fork HS in Irmo, SC.

    thanks for sharing your experiences!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s