It was a sunny Thursday; an ordinary day. I sat at my desk, chatting with a mostly nice lady in charge of design for a website.
She is from Cameroon.
It was while explaining something about user interaction that the following took place:
“…we just need it to do a slide thing when the user clicks here. I don’t understand all the technical terms”, she said with a smile, “just do what you nerds do.”
“Excuse me?” I pretty much shouted. “Oh no you did not just call me the N-word.” I smacked my hands down so hard on my desk they stung, I tried not to flinch.
“But”, she stammered “I heard you call yourself a n…”
“Oh” I shrieked, “don’t you dare say that out loud again. That’s our word. I’m a nerd, I’m a proud nerd, but you do not get to call me that. For decades our ancestors fought to sit in the office with all the other people. Not out back in the server room. Do you know how fucking cold it is in the server room? We kept the milk out in the open.”
She was shaking now, the poor dear. But I was on a roll.
“We have come too far to let you take it all away by calling us” I paused for effect, “nerds to our face. For shame.”
She started crying. “It’s just … I always heard my daddy talking about the n… the n-words … at his work. I guess … I guess I thought it was OK. But I see now. I … I’m so sorry Dirk.”
God dammit if it wasn’t my turn to cry. I stood up and put my arms around her. “It’s not your fault.” I whispered. Unfortunately I had a mystery hard on and I think she felt it. Bad timing, but still, it was a magical moment.