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Respond to racist comments in manner you can live with

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Respond to racist comments in manner you can live with

From the Racist Family Dinner Table: My parents called to warn me about an elderly uncle we are having dinner with this weekend. He's in his 90s and has always been outspoken. Apparently nothing is holding him back now, and his conversations are peppered with racist filth.

My mom wants me to bite my tongue. I told her I'd stay mum on stuff that doesn't pertain to me, but since I have married a person of a different ethnic background and our child will be attending this dinner, I told her that if he says something derogatory about my son's ethnicity, I'll have to speak up. (My son is 5. I'm considering not taking him.)

She's not happy with my compromise. Do you have thoughts on a better solution?

Carolyn: Do whatever you must to be able to live with yourself, but don't bring your son. "She's not happy with my compromise"? So you can't stick up for your own child?! Flashy red lights and flags all over that one.

All kids will be exposed to hatred at some point, but this dinner is preventable, so why allow it? It's a tough age, too — "racist filth" would fly over the head of someone a few years younger, and would be a teaching opportunity for someone a few years older. Your boy is at the sweet spot of getting it but not getting it.

Anonymous: Re: Racist Family Dinner: I'm having a similar dilemma with my racist extended family. My mom has generally made my relatives aware that she does not agree with or condone their racist comments but has chosen to keep silent during family gatherings in order to "keep the peace." I, on the other hand, refuse to keep silent and have asked my mom to ask the relatives (she lives near them all, I live thousands of miles away) to keep politics or any other touchy subjects out of the conversation at Christmas. I told my mom that rather than argue with them, if they go on a racist tirade at dinner, I will simply leave.

This upset my mom, but for me, the option is either leave, or let them know how I feel, which inevitably leads to fighting. Is there some middle ground I'm missing?

Carolyn: No, I don't think so. It just fills out another facet of my original answer: You have to find the answer you can live with. If you'd rather walk away than stay mum or start fights, then walk away. You're entitled to do that, just as the I'm-not-going crowd is entitled not to go, and the speaking-up crowd is entitled to say out loud at the table that there's no excuse for this kind of hateful speech.

I will add that the say-nothing crowd is also entitled to remain silent in the presence of hatred, but since that's usually the path of least courage, it doesn't get to sit in the paragraph with the statements of conscience.

Wowed: Count me in with the "not sure of how to respond so I stay quiet" crowd. But I do remember a post a while back that said "wow" was a sufficient response to almost anything. Maybe "wow" applies here too?

Carolyn: Perfectly, thanks.

Respond to racist comments in manner you can live with 12/01/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 7:39pm]
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