We never quite know how people will react to certain words.
Particularly words with a derogatory connotation.
Generally speaking, a group of people who know each other well enough has no trouble throwing words that others might consider a slur at one another.
Others who might overhear this word being used so casually, however, might be easily offended, making it a wise idea never to use a word you know has even the slightest possibility of causing offense.
Redditor Throwawayfatherhoody was shocked to learn his son called his stepdad a racial slur during an argument.
Making the original poster (OP) all the more ashamed was his son’s conscious use of the word, leading him to believe there was only one appropriate punishment.
Wondering if he had gone too far, however, the OP took to the subReddit “Am I The A**hole” (AITA), where he asked fellow Redditors:
“AITA for grounding my 16yro son for a month after he called his stepdad a slur?”
The OP explained his current parenting situation, and why he, his ex-wife, and her new husband were all in agreement that the actions of his son deserved a certain punishment.
“I’m 43 M[ale], my son is 16 M[ale].”
“I’m divorced (have been for a few years now) and my ex remarried recently.”
“Her new husband (Jonathan) is black (we’re white).”
“He and my ex are now expecting a baby together.”
“He also has 2 teenage boys himself.”
“My ex and I share custody, but our son spends most of his time at my place because he has more room and privacy here.”
“Last weekend he was at his mom’s and on Sunday, he called me all upset saying to come pick him up.”
“I rushed over there and found out that he got into a fight with Jonathan over some chores and Jonathan locked him out of wifi and banned him from video games until he does his chores (which is how my ex and I also discipline him, and Jonathan has our permission to do the same if my son acts out – he can use the same methods he uses with his sons).”
“More longterm/serious punishments are of course decided between my ex and I, but ‘no video games today’ type of thing is totally fine for Jonathan to do.”
“My ex and Jonathan then told me that my son got all upset over this punishment and told Jonathan to ‘f*ck off’.”
“Jonathan then told him to stop talking like that, to which my son replied ‘you and your sons ruined my life, so you don’t get to tell me what to do’.”
“‘I want take orders from a [N-word] anyway’.”
“I asked my son if this is all true.”
“He said yes.”
“He actually called him the [N-word] (because ‘well isnt it true’).”
“I lost it and told my son he is grounded for the whole month of December.”
“My ex agreed.”
“He is obviously annoyed and angry, because he had tons of plans with his friends.”
“He said that I am overreacting to one word and am being unfair.”
“My brother and mom agree with my son, and are saying that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in on where they believed the OP fell in this particular situation, by declaring:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
The Reddit community unanimously agreed that the OP was in no way the a**hole for grounding his son.
Everyone agreed that the OP’s son was more than worthy of his punishment, if not worse, with many commending the OP, his ex, and her new husband for their efficient co-parenting system, and others suggesting that his son needed to see a therapist.
“Your brother and your mom don’t get a say.”
“NTA and this ladies and gents is how you parent after a divorce.”
“There’s clearly work to be done with your son but well done for standing up for the new step parent when your son is so so so clearly in the wrong.”- PepperJacs
“NTA but you and his mom both need to seek out resources to counter his racism.”
“Punishment alone won’t help with that and may even make this problem worse unless there’s also work done to get at the root of the problem.”
“Checking out the work of Jane Elliot is one good starting point.”
“The Learning for Justice website also has some good resources.”
‘I am reluctant to say Jonathan should be part of this process because the emotional labor involved in countering racism is not something he should have to do in his own home but I am sure he has some suggestions &, for all I know, would be more than willing to dive in on educating the kid on the issue.”
“Thank you for taking it seriously.”- rapt2right
“Good for you.”
“The actual issue aside, this shows great solidarity.”
“As far as ‘overreacting’ goes, your son wasn’t just being deliberately hateful to a stranger or casual acquaintance, but to 3 people who live in his actual home!”- Superdry73
“Not even close.”
“In fact, you would be a HUGE a**hole if you let that slide in any way.”
“Kid needs to learn what is and isn’t acceptable.”
“It seems like both you and your ex are firmly anti-[N-word], so I assume he gets that language either from his friend group or the internet communities he’s in.”
“Just beware, people usually don’t just say the [N-word] as an insult without having some underlying racism.”
“So the lesson needs to be deeper than just ‘don’t say that word, it’s not okay’.”- EbMinor33
“Your son needs to learn that calling someone the n-word or any slur is unacceptable.”
“Ask everyone that’s supporting your son what they think a suitable punishment for calling his stepdad a word that oppressors used to dehumanize a group a people for centuries.”
“Is your family racist?”- Y-tho_
“And I think you were entirely correct.”
“Hate speech is nothing to take lightly, and being permissive with your son over this would only encourage him to keep thinking and talking this way.”
“He’s 16, and that’s old enough to know better.”
“And if he kept doing this into his adulthood, he’d run into some real problems, really fast.”
“It’s not ‘one word’.”
“I’d agree that this was overboard if you grounded him for a month for saying ‘f*ck’, for example.”
“He’d have a fair point had he not used an actual racial slur.”
“He could stand to learn a little bit about the history of that word, its use in slavery and lynchings, etc. — he clearly doesn’t understand the impact of that word.”
“Where did he learn to talk like this?”
“Is this something he gets from his friends?”- Overall-Section-4386
“As a brown person, I think racism is completely unacceptable and that your actions were in the right.”
“However, is your son in therapy?”
“The way he said that they all ‘ruined his life’ is a little concerning, and the fact that he was blatantly racism makes me wonder if there’s any underlying issues.”
“If there are, and they remain unaddressed, this could get worse.”- Writer_Girl04
“You’re teaching him early that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.”-okayelle
“Your son called someone a violent slur and is showing no remorse.”
“Please check his Internet history, you do not know what he is watching or talking to.”- zackattackyo
“The punishment does fit the crime, though.”
“Your son has to realize he was not using just another curse word, but a hateful pejorative.”
“And he did it knowingly and with intent to hurt.”
“NTA, I applaud your parenting.”- Ok_Bookkeeper_3481
“You are absolutely right to punish your son this way.”
“It does fit the crime.”
“He needs to learn that it is never acceptable to be a racist.”
“But mom and brother agreeing with him should tell you all you need to know about where he got the idea in the first place to even think it.”
“As part of his punishment for the whole month of December you should find every series, documentary, movie of how black people have been/are treated.”
‘Then for sh*ts and giggles he can write a 500 page essay on all that he has learned.”- abcdeem
“I think his punishment should also include some education on the subject.”
“He needs to learn there are consequences for his actions, even free speech.”- tonalake
“I don’t know if it is the type of thing that would work with your kid, but an essay and book report on a topic related racism as a way to reduce his punishment can be effective with some kids.”
“Also, a sincere apology to those hurt by his words even if they don’t accept the apology.”
“16 years old is more than old enough to know better.”
“People lose jobs over language like that.”
“Even sports stars.”- Kushali
Some might even think the OP’s son got off easy, and being grounded for one month wasn’t nearly sufficient punishment for his actions.
Hopefully, One month stuck at home should hopefully give the OP’s son ample time to think about his actions, and the effect referring to his step-father by that word would have caused.
As however hurt and angry he may have felt for being punished, his no doubt stepfather felt infinitely worse by simply hearing that word.