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Judge Jessie LeBlanc

In the course of writing this column I have addressed racism, its roots, ravages and the long shadow it cast. Those columns always evoke the most responses, some with more racist vitriol than expected.

There are some readers who can’t stomach that kind of writing and who can’t look at people like me without thinking about and using the N-word. I think there is a sadness about their lives.

Some readers have emailed me or written on my Facebook page, saying that I need to stop bringing up the misdeeds of their forefathers, grandfathers and fathers. Times are so much better now.

To a degree that’s true, but …

The dehumanization of slavery, the sale of children from their parents, the rape of untold black women and girls by their masters and their handlers is not something so easily dismissed. Yet, I’m told by some responders that stuff is all water under the bridge.

You can live where you want. You can go to any restaurant. Your kids can attend private schools. You can be president of the United States. Just close that door, Ed.

Trust me, the stench of evil is always permeating and seeps under that door to grab us again and again.

But, don’t get me wrong, there are many more people of good character and they are gaining ground in America. I witness good people of love and understanding, of all races, every single day. This is the America most of us hope continues to grow. There is hope.

But then, there’s the case of 23rd Judicial District Judge Jessie LeBlanc, who finally admitted that text messages she sent laced with the N-word were in fact her words.

There was a chorus of calls for Judge LeBlanc to resign, as she did Thursday. That’s not what this is.

She says she didn’t mean anything by her texts; it is not reflective of who she is and how she made decisions on the bench when dealing with people of color. Let’s take a vote. That’s her defense and it has been used over and over again when other major decision-makers were caught with their N-word showing.

But her choice of words in a conversation is probably reflected in conversations we don’t hear about. Those who feel comfortable using the word know that who they are talking to also feel comfortable with the word. And, therein is lies a major problem.

Do you think those people on the receiving end ever suggest that they don’t want to hear it? You kind of wonder what were her conversations like at parties, barbecues and crawfish boils, when discussing people of color.

I bet there are a lot of people like me who wish we were post-N-word and beyond the emotion that comes with it. It is difficult to believe that people in power who have that word in their arsenal can be fair when dealing with people who look like me, whether that be the loan officer, the real estate broker or the person making the decision who gets a promotion.

How sobering it is that judges, who understand the inhumanity of that word, are left to make life and death decisions on the lives of people who look like me.

When they are discovered, the routine is same. The public, especially African Americans, are asked to be forgiving, to be understanding. We must understand the “true heart” of the person.

But, a writer, Kevin Powell, wrote in a column on race last year, “How do we continually praise black people for their capacity to endure and forgive, yet still refuse to have real and honest conversations about race and racism in America?”

The lingering problem in these cases is that these people have children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, who hear it and are taught through subliminal messaging to love the hate associated with that word. It’s like handing down the family heirlooms.

I hope the opposite happens. That incidents like this will spur more real conversations about the word, because there is a conversation about it in the African American community among the old and the young.

And, for those who say let it go, forgive the hate associated with the N-word, I have one answer: Nah!

Email Edward Pratt a former newspaperman who writes a weekly Advocate column at epratt1972@yahoo.com.