NIGGER THE DOG

I was looking through old family photo albums recently for images to save digitally before they deteriorate. Unexpectedly, on the back of one faded picture, I noticed some handwriting. The wobbly scrawl was penned by my mother as a girl, and lovingly listed the names of those who appear in the photograph: Dad, Mam, John, Peter... Nigger.

Evidently, when she was a kid, my mum had a dog named Nigger. His murky outline is faintly visible in the bottom corner of the photo. Finding out the family dog answered to the n-word was a shock. Even more so when you consider that my mum went on to marry my father—a black man—and is anti-racist with a passion you only see in parents of mixed-race children.

Why had I never heard about Nigger before? Neither my mum nor anyone else in the family had ever mentioned the dog. Its existence had been hushed up. So I decided to confront my relatives with the photograph and bring this secret dog to light.

The portrait was taken in 1945 in front of my mum’s home in Northenden—a predominantly white, working-class estate in south Manchester. In this pre-politically-correct community, nigger was a popular term to describe a shade of brown, just like you’d say something was “cherry red” or “sky blue” ...

* Read the whole story of my mum's dog in this month's issue of Prospect, available on most magazine stands. If you're outside the UK then you can read it online, but you need to subscribe (bummer).


3 comments:

nathan said...

Oh jeez, ersatz shock-horror piece on the naivety of past generations. They still have racist candy in Finland. Mine that resource.

L.A.Nights said...

I have the reverse story: my grand parents were racists - like old school conservative guys were 60 years ago - and they had a dog named "Bwana" which means "Boss" in Camerounese.

dominic said...

ersatz?

hey nathan! the 1920s called. they want their lingo back.

did you even read the piece? douchebag.