Looking through old photos, I found out my mother once had a dog named Nigger. Yet she went on to marry my father, a black manby Tom Tunon / November 18, 2009 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2009 issue of Prospect Magazine
My mother’s family in 1945: bottom left, the dog Nigger
I was looking through old family photo albums recently for images to save digitally before they deteriorate. Unexpectedly, on the back of one faded picture, I noticed some handwriting. The wobbly scrawl was penned by my mother as a girl, and lovingly listed the names of those who appear in the photograph: Dad, Mam, John, Peter… Nigger.
Evidently, when she was a kid, my mum had a dog named Nigger. His murky outline is faintly visible in the bottom corner of the photo. Finding out the family dog answered to the n-word was a shock. Even more so when you consider that my mum went on to marry my father—a black man—and is anti-racist with a passion you only see in parents of mixed-race children.
Why had I never heard about Nigger before? Neither my mum nor anyone else in the family had ever mentioned the dog. Its existence had been hushed up. So I decided to confront my relatives with the photograph and bring this secret dog to light.