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 Obama’s Chicago house. People from the area make jokes that the neighborhood’s motto is “black and white together, shoulder to shoulder against the poor.” 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. “Nigger” 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.