The noose tightened around their neck – and they heard it.
Pulled from their car on a backcountry road by men in white hoods, it would be their last night on this earth – and they heard it.
Little boys and girls walked proudly up the path to the school, the crowd shouted at them, and at their entrance blocking their way stood the sheriff – and they heard it.
The protest was non-violent, yet they unleashed the dogs and turned on the fire hoses anyway – and they heard it.
The cross burned brightly and gathered all around the souls of the innocents about to take their last breaths, were the men in the sheets – and they heard it.
What they heard was the N-word. And they heard it with all the hatred and venom it represents. Let us make no mistake today about the word’s true meaning. Let us stop pretending we have redefined it and made it into a word we can embrace and claim as our own. It is simply what it is and what it has always been a word of hatred, a word with no redeeming quality, a word that should never be uttered again.
Yet we must not bury it either. It is a part of American history. We must always remember it and never forget the countless number of men, women, and yes, children who, because they dared desire to be free and demanded to be treated as equals, heard it just before they breathed their last breath. In their memory, we must teach its sordid history to our children and tell them to teach it to their children.
They heard it, and we must ensure we never hear it again.

They heard it

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