Dago

Dago (n): a contemptuous term used for a person of Italian or Spanish descent

I was seven years old and not about to lose the blessings of my youth by questioning grown-ups on what they did.

There was fifty cents worth of allowance at stake and the occasional affectionate pat on the head—plus a half pound of pickle pimento loaf, purchased once every two weeks just for me at White’s Market.

I had much to lose.

So when I heard grown-ups say “Spic,” I thought it was short for “spicy.” After all, Mexicans do like their hot peppers.

When they said “Chink” I thought it was a tribute to Chinese armor, or that protective gear worn by the Samurai.

“Negro” sounded to me like “Negro,” which I believed to be an appropriate term for a race of people I rarely saw.

“Injun?” I had convinced myself it was the Iroquois word for “American Indian.”

And of course, “Dago,” for Italian folks, seemed logical to me because it sounded like pizza dough, and I sure did like pizza.

I was a full blown-out adult when I realized that these terms were not only derogatory but disabling.

I repented quickly of my foolishness and tried to find a way to understand the ignorance that brought this nasty language my way.