Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N: Naive

Is it good to be naïve? The word is often used in a negative way, but when I look at the actual dictionary definition, I can see how it might be seen as a positive attribute:

1.     having or showing unaffected simplicity of nature or absence of artificiality; unsophisticated; ingenious.
2.      Having or showing a lack of experience, judgment, or information; credulous.
3.     Having or marked by a simple, unaffectedly direct style reflecting little or no formal training or technique.

When I was eighteen, I met a black girl. She had her hair in tightly braided columns. “Wow, I love your n-knots,” I blurted (only I actually said the n-word to her). She looked at me for a long moment and then said, “That’s not a word you’re supposed to say. The hairstyle is called corn rows.” 

I really shouldn’t have been quite so naïve. I did grow up hearing and saying the n-word. We ate delicious nuts, which we called n-toes (i.e., Brazil nuts). We had a selection song that included the n-word, “eenie-meenie-minie-mo catch a n—by his toe...,” which has evolved to be “catch a tiger by its toe.” We went “n-knocking” to prank our friends, but my children call that “ding-dong-ditching.”

When I was in elementary school there was a family that lived nearby of uncertain racial origin. Their daughter had not been terrible friendly to me. One day she pushed into my seat on the bus and I said, under my breath (or so I thought), “Go away n---.” Well, she heard it. And they called and told my mom what I’d said. And I got spanked. (If you’re the person I’m writing about and you’re reading this, please know that I’m very sorry and embarrassed for having said those words to you.)

So, by age eighteen I should’ve realized it wasn’t okay to say the word to outsiders, particularly black outsiders. I'm thankful that the beautiful young lady I met was patient enough to explain that to me rather than give me the earful (or fistful) I deserved.

Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.
1 Corinthians 14:20 (KJV)

Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regards to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.
1 Cointhians 14:20 (NIV)

Do you have a similar story of naiveté? Is there anything positive about being naïve?


  1. Dropping by from the UBC. Growing up in New York City, I thought I was so street smart and knew so much about everything. And, I knew people from different countries and different races. I knew it all! Did I ever get the shock of my life when my husband joined the Air Force and I suddenly met people from different states, different religions, different cultures within our country. There was so much I had to learn and learn fast including the fact that New York City is not the center of the universe.

  2. Shoot! I thought that I was the only person that used the N-word on here!

  3. There was a wonderful song in "South Pacific" - "You Have To Be Taught" You LEARNED to use that word- but did you think it was something that racist term when you used it? Probably not...
    I learned as a young child, that the "n" word was a worse curse than the "f" word. It was not said, and we didn't think of black people using those words.
    So when I was a guidance counselor in a predominately black neighborhood, I was APPALLED when I heard black children calling each other "N"..... HORRIFIED. And I tried to explain to them WHY they shouldn't use these words. Needless to say, it didn't work. I STILL can't say the "n" word, although I do use the "f" word! LOL

  4. I was brought up in a small town in southeast Kansas. I was very naïve when I moved to the "Big City", Wichita, after college. Wichita, Kansas is the largest city in the state and yet is still small by real big city standards.

    Where I grew up, everyone helped everyone. It was an understood custom. If someone had car trouble, the next people on the scene would help them. Helping someone else was a perfect reason for being late for anything and no one would make any more of it.

    I had been in Wichita in my new accounting job only a few weeks when one day in the pouring down rain my car flooded out on my way home in "rush hour" traffic (which by the way we never had at home).

    The people came up and I expected them to help me and instead then yelled for me to get my car out of the road. Finally, a police car pulled up behind me and I thought "oh finally, they will help"....you see, in my home town the police always helped, too.

    Nope. The officer told me to move my car or I'd get a ticket and he'd have it towed.

    I somehow pushed my car out of the road in water up to my knees and then went and called me sister to come get me (no cell phones in those days).

  5. I grew up in the South and do, indeed, have a story or two like this in my past. I've heard all those sayings and more. I like the idea of being "unsophisticated," but I can still put my foot in my mouth distressingly easily.

  6. I don't find naive to be derrogatory at all. In a sense it is a connection to our lost innocence.
    I grew up in a very ethnicly diverse area (Southern Calif.)as opposed to a predominately white atmosphere Your innocence when you referred to the girls hair, was probably not meant to be malicious. You felt it was acceptable because of how you were raised,thus being nieve. I find being nieve is a bit refreshing at times. Sort of reminisent of a simpler and gentler time

  7. That's a word I loathe and will not use in any context. I think it's lovely that the young lady you said it to was kind. I grew up in the time of MLK and bussing and race riots. Racism is a pervasive disease that still, sadly, exists in our world.


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