When I spoke to “Sam” on the phone I asked him to detail to me exactly what he wanted out of the scene. He expressed that he was looking for some fairly garden-variety humiliation, and then he dropped the bomb. It was of utmost importance that I refer to him as a “nigger.”
I was shocked. More than that, I was shocked at my shock. I was pretty sure something so little as a word could never jar me this much, but I am a relatively privileged white girl. I grew up in Hyde Park, one of the most diverse and racially tolerant neighborhoods in Chicago. My childhood home is within walking distance of Obamaâ€™s Chicago house. People from the area make jokes that the neighborhoodâ€™s motto is â€śblack and white together, shoulder to shoulder against the poor.â€ť My parents raised me not only to be tolerant and respectful, but for lack of a better term, color blind.
They also taught me there were certain words one did not say under any circumstances. â€śNiggerâ€ť was at the very top of that list. Apparently their teaching had really stuck; the idea of referring to one of my fellow human beings as a nigger in any context, even a consensual scene, was utterly implausible to me. There is so much baggage that comes with those six little letters, so much responsibility. I never thought of myself as politically correct, but this was a line I did not feel comfortable crossing. I no longer cared if it was uncool to be shocked, I knew that there was no way I could possibly go through with this job.
I must have been silent for quite some time, because I heard Sambo ask if I was still there. I told him I was and paused to think about how to kindly tell him that, essentially, he was too weird for me.