I dropped an N-bomb once. I am not proud of this.

I had a friend, a co-worker, who was black. I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but I can say that in context it was clear I wasn’t trying to be insulting. It was meant to be ironic, and my friend knew that. But that’s not the point.

I don’t remember what we were talking about, but I very clearly remember the pause. My friend froze for a second, grimaced, and gave a polite half-laugh. Then he said, “You know, hearing you say that, kinda made feel… you know…”

I was surprised. I think I mumbled some sort of apology, but actually (and here’s where I really fucked up) my feelings were kinda hurt. I thought we were friends, you know? Didn’t he get that I was being funny?

Here’s what I’ve realized in the years since: Yes, we were friends. We were good enough friends that while he could have just gritted his teeth and let my stupid moment of blind privilege roll by – like I’m sure he’s had to do a million times – he instead took a moment to let me know I’d done something to upset him. To my shame, it took me about 15 years to figure that out.

So, to that friend, let me say – for real, this time – I am very sorry. It was stupid of me. I know better now. It will never happen again.