A friend of mine — let’s call her Sassy — faced a dilemma this weekend that almost has her ready to tear her lease up and head for the hills.

After a day out, Sassy came home to her white, male roommate having a conversation with a friend of his (also white). She only caught the convo on its tail end, but she did hear him say “…then I’ll just be like, ‘whatever, nigger,’ and charge her the rest.”

Sassy was sure he’d heard her coming, so she was shocked both that he was using the word and that he didn’t even bother editing it out before she came in. She stopped short and looked at him like he must be crazy, but he didn’t apologize or even seem guilty, just asked her what was wrong. Because neither of the guys had guilty faces on, Sassy figured she must have misheard him and kept it moving. But the n-word is a pretty hard one to mis-hear, so now she’s not sure what to do. She’s pissed, confused, feels uncomfortable in her own home, and has no idea if or how to start a conversation about it.

Keep in mind that this roommate is a self-professed Southern liberal with a “formerly racist” father, black in-laws, and relatives that are racist enough that their existence makes him feel like he must be doing ok with the whole race thing. Sassy and this guy have always been pretty cool, and they live in a slowly gentrifying area so he is not isolated from the black experience (and of course, who doesn’t know not to use that word, especially in the presence of black folks?).

Should she confront her housemate and ask what’s up with that? Or should she just let it go to avoid the tension?

What would you do?


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