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Jennifer Trannon Headshot

It's OK to Say Black

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I am a white woman married to a Black man. We are raising our biracial children in a mostly white suburb of Chicago.

One day last fall, we were at my eldest son's football game and I was chatting with my friend Sue, who introduced me to another mom. The other mom asked me, "And who is your husband?"

Sue pointed to my husband, the only Black man on either side of the field, and said, "That man over there in the yellow shirt. With the beard." Sue's friend continued to look around the field until I said, "The Black guy."

Both women looked at me hesitantly until I gave a relaxed laugh. Then the friend said, "Oh, I see him!"

Often when pointing someone out we use neutral adjectives, such as "the man in the yellow shirt," and we don't hesitate to say "the pretty blonde" or "the tall guy on the end." It isn't very often we use something that could be perceived as derogatory, as in "the very homely boy sitting on the bench."

Why, then, are people so afraid to say "the Black guy?"

The hesitation in using the descriptor would lead one to believe that being Black is a bad thing, something we don't like to mention.

Part of the confusion, I know, comes from the whole PC movement, and people not knowing, frankly, "what to call them." I cannot count the number of people who have asked me, "What are we supposed to say? Black? African-American?"

In an attempt not to offend, or simply to avoid saying the wrong thing, many people choose not to say anything at all. It is a sentiment I truly understand. But when I look at my daughter, who is struggling to understand her racial identity in this crazy, mixed-up world, I don't want her to think for one minute that it isn't OK to call people Black, or that it's a word that should be shushed, as in, "My sister's dating a Black guy." You wouldn't shush blonde, tall or rich. So go ahead. I'm giving you permission.

It's OK to say Black.

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