When a baby became a n**ger…the audacity of Joe Rickey

Flying for many people including yours truly is not a comfortable experience, in many cases it is a necessity. Yet for many infants and small children it is truly an uncomfortable experience especially when it comes to takeoff and landing. Such was the case for a two year old child who was traveling with his mother on February 8th, when their plane’s descent into Atlanta’s Hartfield Airport caused the tyke to express himself in that way that kids are prone to doing…he started crying. Yet what happened next to this precious babe is something that while shocking isn’t really surprising. Joe Rickey Hundley of Idaho, a passenger on the plane decided that he just wasn’t in the mood to hear the child’s screams so he told the mother to “Shut that nigger baby up,” and if calling an innocent child a nigger wasn’t enough, Huntley leaned over and slapped the child in the face with an open hand.

Other passengers heard the assault and quickly came to the aid of the mother. Hundley is facing charges and apparently has a history of smacking people who annoy him. Hopefully justice will deal swiftly with Hundley and give him a year’s vacation in one of Georgia’s fine jails, so he can meditate on his actions and rethink his approach to dealing with minor annoyances.

Of course as news of this story spreads, everyone is outraged at Huntley’s audacity but for those of us who live daily with micro-aggressions, there is no surprise. A long time reader and online friend relayed to me that many years ago in a store a white man called her child a nigger. While not every Black person in America will ever be called a nigger at some point in their life, the truth is it happens more often than most non-Black people realize and even in post racial America with a Black man as president; little black kids are still just niggers to many people.

Stories such as this one make us recoil because it is so incomprehensible and so vile that any person with an ounce of compassion is disgusted. Yet the attack on this innocent child is simply the more extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to race relations in this country. We get uncomfortable when our friends of difference talk about their struggles for acceptance never realizing that on some level when we downplay what happens to them and when we don’t truly listen, in the end we are on the same spectrum as the Hundley’s of the world. You may not be calling me or anyone else a nigger but when your actions or even inaction towards a person of color causes them to feel less than, the end result is the same. It’s simply dehumanizing.

This story is uncomfortable; my decision to use the word nigger rather than the more polite n-word is uncomfortable but maybe if we as a collective get really uncomfortable maybe just maybe real change can begin on the racial front. Until we all get uncomfortable though, change will only happen in small bite size morsels.

12 thoughts on “When a baby became a n**ger…the audacity of Joe Rickey”

  1. And let’s be real, a big part of the reason he attacked this woman and her baby with those words is obvious if you’ve seen them on the news. She’s white, the baby is obviously biracial. I am 100% positive that a huge part of his ire was how that white woman came to be the mother of a half black child.

    • Although I have no doubt that you are right, that he assumed she was the mother of a bi-racial child and that was what really caused his anger, I read somewhere that she is the adoptive mother of the child, and that both adoptive parents are white. I don’t know if the father was with them or not, so I don’t know if it was in fact immediately apparent that they were an adopted family, but I can’t imagine that would have angered him any less, and I think the anger would come from a very similar, although not exactly the same, space. White parents betraying white orphans by adopting a black child, rather than white woman betraying white men by being with a black man…

  2. Thank you for this post. I applaud you for speaking so openly about race issues. I am raising two black children in Southern Maine and really appreciate your perspective.

  3. As always, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve learned in therapy that change, real lasting change, isn’t possible without discomfort. This is the most dysfunctional country that likes to pretend the elephant in the room is a figment of our imagination. Once the denial stops and people work through the discomfort, maybe we can make some progress. Unfortunately I don’t see this happening. I hate to be a wet towel, but it’s too convenient for things to stay the same.

    • It is easy, I think it will take a lot of knowledge for change to really happen. We as a whole are still relatively immature when it comes to race relations, believing that a few changes have wiped the slate clean, when that is simply not true at all.

  4. I wonder if he would have said “Shut that white baby up”?. Geez. And although I never tried it with my three children, I’m pretty sure slapping them with an open hand isn’t one of the methods for quieting a scared baby.

  5. After reading this early this morning, it almost made me throw up my oatmeal. But I believe we need to know stuff like this goes on because shamefully naive souls like myself are inclined to think stuff like this is made up for the tabloids. It kind of embarrasses me to say that, but I’m being honest; I actually had to google the story and found it on the Huffington post. I’m sorry.

    • There is no reason to be sorry, I think that prior to social media these types of stories could stay under the radar. So to hear them is surprising but sadly as I said in the piece this isn’t surprising to me at all.

  6. First, let me begin by saying I am a daily reader, not necessarily a commenter, (although I did attempt an elaborate diatribe, but when I attempted to post, I received an error and gave up!), and enjoy your writings. In the short while of subscribing, (I subscribed after seeing you on #nerdland), I’ve grown to love your blog more and more because of its truth!

    I cannot comment fully on the evolution of the blog since I haven’t been present from conception, and only can comment from my own genesis, I’ve seen so much growth! WOW! Too old readers, it may appear that you’ve become radical, not sure, but I do know that your voice shouldn’t be silenced and the truth of your message should always be met with self-examination.

    I’ve grown up in the South all my life. My parents are Jim Crow babies. With what I see here in Raleigh, NC, today’s post doesn’t shock me at all. As much as people would like to believe that racism doesn’t exist, and as much flack as reverse discrimination gets (I still don’t really understand how that works?), laws will never stop old Rickey’s heart. Unfortunately though, as my parents always told me, covert racism is worse, because now, I’ll have to see it in job opportunities, and housing opportunities and in many other areas of life. Who would’ve thought that these Christian conservatives in the south were really supposed to love people of different hues. *sarcasm*

    Truth is what Rickey did is the fruition of hundreds of years of cover up that just is coming to a head. Centuries of racism and then the mass lies and cover ups (read: it’s not as bad as it used to be, I’m not a racist, some of my best friends are black) have created Rickey’s final act (let’s hope that it’s his final act for his sake. He won’t be too happy with the brothers in the GA pen). I’m led to question whether America helps nurture the RIckey’s of society by shoving the ugliness of racism under the bed and shutting the door.

    I would say that America indeed does so!

    Keep speaking the truth sistah, whether the truth hurts or not, for we are not in a post-racial society, and dare I say, that we probably won’t see one in our lifetimes. This perhaps is our lot – the darker hued of society – to forever speak the truth in love. *with right fist raised in solidarity*

    • Thank you so much for your words, they mean a lot. I think as I work through some personal issues, I am starting to be open to taking more risks in this space and just keep it real.

      I would like to think that change is going to happen in my lifetime, but like I am weary that it will. Hell, this past Halloween there were kids dressed in blackface who thought it was cute…we still have a lot of work to do.

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