His Name Is Nick. He'll Never Forget The Night A Stranger Decided To Call Him Something Else.

One night, a young man had a cup of ice thrown in his face by a stranger. He was even more scared for his life because his assailant decided to throw one word at him, too. After it happened, he wasn't sure how to react. So he wrote this.

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[cars driving]

[wind blowing]

Narrator: The first time you're called a nigger, you won't be expecting it. Your assailant won't choose their adjectives carefully. You will wonder if it makes it hurt less if they chose an adjective that incorrectly describes who you perceive yourself to be as a person.

The first time you're called a nigger, you will feel like the only person for miles. The words will appear to be pouring from the shadows as your surroundings begin to blur and your skin will seem to get darker with every passing second. You will stand in the same spot for minutes but it will feel like years as the words wash over you and cover you in confusion, hurt, anger, and pain.

The first time you're called a nigger, you will treat the soap in your shower like an eraser in an attempt to scrub away the scathing attack on your identity but you won't feel as clean as you were before. As you brush your teeth you will wonder to yourself, what kind of toothpaste your assailant uses. You tell yourself there's no way a mouth filled with so much hate could be well cared for. Out of the corner of your eye you will notice your reflection staring at you from the bathroom mirror with a empathetic gaze that says "This too shall pass."

The first time you're called a nigger, you will lie awake in bed unable to sleep as the ghosts of black men who recognized you from history class and news headlines will line the edges of your bed. Emmett Till, Kimani Grey, Amadou Diallo, Timothy Stanley, Barry Jr., Sean Bell, Orlando Barlow, Oscar Grant, will tell you, they know all too well the pain you're experiencing. They will remind you it could have been worse and assure you that you could have done nothing to prevent it. They will tell you there are hundreds of faceless and nameless people who have had those words followed by much worse than a cup of ice.

The first time you're called a nigger, you will wake up to a flood of messages from your friends apologizing for the transgressions of your assailant. You will be reminded of your grandmother's words, "Don't let the actions of others change who you are as a person." You will get dressed. You will go to class. You will promise to yourself to remain unjaded.

The first time that you are called a nigger, you will write a poem about it. It will not break you, it will only make you stronger than you were before.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

Original video by Brian Powers. You can check out his photojournalism here as well as follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Props to Colorlines for making the video show up in my Feedly. And, of course, a huge thanks to Nick Gilyard for telling his story to the world. Read his interview about it here.

May 29, 2014

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