'It's not OK': Frustrated over use of N-word, Sask. mother speaks out
Sandra Barker-Schmidt says kids need to be educated on use of the racially charged word
When she adopted her three children, who are originally from Ethiopia, Sandra Barker-Schmidt said she thought they would have a better life in Canada.
Instead, she's seen her son, and now her 13-year-old daughter, face racism and the cutting use of the N-word — and lost one of her children to suicide following bullying.
"In this day and age, it shouldn't be. It breaks my heart to see my kid suffering like this."
Barker-Schmidt, who lives on a farm east of Balgonie, Sask., shared her family's story on Facebook last week, in a post that was shared more than 2,000 times.
She explained her son, Kaleab, started facing bullying and racism when he was in high school. He died by suicide in 2018.
Barker-Schmidt said one of her daughters is also dealing with racism now.
A racial epithet — the N-word — has been hurled at her 13-year-old daughter, Kidist, twice in the past month. She kept it to herself for a few weeks before opening up to her mother about what had happened.
"At first she didn't want me to say anything. She just wanted to let it go," Barker-Schmidt said.
"I told her, 'We can't, Kidist, because [if] everybody doesn't say anything, how is anything going to change? Kids are going to keep doing it.'"
My daughter should be able to walk downtown and have an ice cream, and not have to put up with that.- Sandra Barker-Schmidt
She says she's shocked that kids who know her family's story would continue to spout hurtful comments.
"These kids just don't think. Out of their mouths comes these words."
'A word that comes with a history'
Davy Sage, a recording artist who was born and raised in Nigeria, now makes his home in Regina and serves as a board member with the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum.
Like Barker-Schmidt, he says people often hear casual use of the N-word in music. However, the word is now casually dropped by people outside of black communities and that isn't acceptable, he said.
He himself has heard a friend use the word, apparently not realizing it might cause offence.
"It's a word that comes with a history," he said, noting the N-word has historically been used by people such as slave owners to "put a black person in their place."
When he goes into schools, students will sometimes ask him to play music laden with use of the word or other explicit language, which he says he refuses to do.
"This is not a word that should be used," said Sage.
Barker-Schmidt said she's called at least two other parents to tell them about their children's use of the N-word toward her daughter, and said both parents were apologetic.
She told them what she's told others — the word is not appropriate, and kids need to stop using the word, and call out others when they see the word being used.
"We need to educate them and say it's not OK," she said. "My daughter should be able to walk downtown and have an ice cream, and not have to put up with that."
If you're experiencing suicidal thoughts or having a mental health crisis, help is available. For an emergency or crisis situation, call 911. You can also contact the Saskatchewan suicide prevention line toll-free, 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566, the Regina mobile crisis services suicide line at 306-525-5333 or Saskatoon mobile crisis line at 306-933-6200.
With files from CBC Saskatchewan's Morning Edition