You know who they are, you’ve always known. For years you have cringed when they made a racist, sexist or inappropriate comment at family gatherings. Through the years,family members have learned to live with them. They dismiss him or her and say, you know how she is? Others run to his defense saying he or she has a good heart. They’d do anything for ya, just don’t pay him no mind.
Then one day your caught off guard. Some family members may challenge his statement to no avail. All is fine in the world until he or she is in your world.
The family member makes a racist comment in front of someone outside of your family. Challenging the comment may result in world war three, where there are no survivors. Silence, may bruise or damage the relationship you have with the outsider.
Some people who make racist statements don’t believe they are racists, others don’t care, this is what they believe and they believe they have a right to their opinion and the rest be dammed.
Both types are in every family. Some are verbal and others quietly share their opinions with a select few. These individuals and their opinions surface when the foundation of the family is shakened. Usually after a person of a different race ,background or religion is introduced to the family.
A 35 year old man from San Francisco, learned this when he told him family he was gay. Gay people has been apart of his life as far as long he could remember. Both of his parents had gay friends who on several occasions had visited their home. After announcing he was gay, both parents where outraged, especially his mother who explained that she didn’t have any problems with gay people as long as none of her children were gay. All gays will eventually go to hell, its not what God intended.
Managing the Racists in your family
1. Accept and Respect: Accept who they are (Period!) Don’t expect them to change because of the changes in your world. This will save you $$$ in therapy costs and more importantly you sanity. No endless hours of discussions and arguments that go no where. Respect who they are, as you are very aware of their limitations.
2. Do not expect or demand other family members take sides. They have long made the decision to live with the family members shortcomings. It’s not fair to them and could divide the family.
3. Boundaries: Understand you have absolutely no control over them and what they do or say in their home or in the home of others. However, you DO have control over what takes place in YOUR home. He or she must respect your home and the people who are in it.
This could mean you opting out, on family gathering that include him. You, your friends, significant others should be not subjected to his or her damaging words or beliefs. Its unreasonable to ask the host to un-invite the person in question but you can control your environment.
At his first Thanksgiving with his new wife. His sister told his wife how she disapproved of white people, especially white women. She mocked and insulted his wife at every turn. He felt helpless. They have been married 38 years and have five children.. His wife and his sister haven’t seen each other in 37 years. His sister who has never apologized have never been to their home.
4. Keeping the peace at all cost: At one point, you may be pressured to discard everything you know to attend the traditional family gatherings. After all you know how he is?
Your priorities should always be your well being and the well being of the people near and dear to you.