So soon I will be at a family event that involves some of my closest relatives. The issue that I am dealing with is that some of them are very open racists. Considering they live in an area of the country where it is unlikely they would have to encounter a minority, this continues to surprise me. It isn't even as if I see them act upon it, in that case it would be clear to speak up. What typically happens is that "J" will start a story in casual conversation which always ends up how badly treated he and wife "M" have been by minorities. For example, while traveling they stop in a shopping mall. Soon they realize that most of the people there are black; they become convinced "they are all staring at us"; and then "have to" leave for their own safety since this must be a "bad" area of town. It is an almost constant stream of stories like this. I predict this visit will be even worse since we will all be in a more diverse area of the country for the family event.I have had a hard time figuring when to speak up. The remarks are constant and blatant. The couple involved congratulate themselves on their Christianity. Our culture is very opposed to confrontation (it is not perceived as "nice"). The rest of the family will not remark on this and certain members agree to various extents (especially when it comes to the President).So what to do? Keep my mouth shut and play "nice"?
I am non confrontational - so i usually end up with the frowny face & head shakepeace & probably not helpfult
I don't believe you can change racial prejudice. It seems to be a fear that was learned at an early age and fed along the line.Besides saying a short "that's prjudiced" I don't offer any other comment.I think the best way to deal with it is to get up and leave the room. Starting an argument will not help, nor change their view.jC
I have not been known for keeping my mouth shut in these situations. But the other party has always been friends or acquaintances, not family. (My family has many quirks, but racism isn't one of them.) Dealing with family can be more difficult.It's true that you probably can't change how they think. On the other hand, you might be able to change how they behave. And sometimes halting the spread of poison is a reasonable first step.Is there a way you can address the behavior in a less confrontational way? Focus more on you instead of them? Something like, "I haven't ever had <minority group> treat me that way and the ones I know don't think that way. They're just people like everyone else and your generalizations about them make me very uncomfortable."Disclaimer: I'm not usually that nice when I deal with racism. But then, I'm probably not very effective either. But to me, keeping my mouth shut isn't even an option. ymmv of course.Frydaze1
But to me, keeping my mouth shut isn't even an option.Thanks for the advice - I have the same problem (can't just grin & bear it).My main tactic when he starts spinning up a story like that is to say "wow, you seem to run into situations like this a lot. I don't recall it ever happening to me." This hasn't been very effective but if I try to refute it he says "I was there and you weren't." Using my own experiences just creates a "top this" response.The only time I really confront it is when we are in public together: one time he started off on how the Hispanic waitress supposedly was "rude" and was "staring at my wife". So I said "this is obviously bothering you a lot, so we should leave right now." That quieted him down but by the time we got home he was back at it.So why should I really care? They live in a completely different area of the country and we don't interact a lot. But this family event (a wedding) will expose the new members to this crap and I really don't want the new in-laws to think we are all like that. Unfortunately, the general culture of non-confrontation means that others won't speak up.
Then the best you can do is shun them. Excuse yourself politely and sit somewhere else. Sometimes that's the only protest you can make, but it keeps you from being lumped in with those who agree or even find it acceptable behavior.Frydaze1
Unfortunately, the general culture of non-confrontation means that others won't speak up. Here's the thing - you cannot change them. The racists or the non-confronters.Making a stink at the wedding will just make YOU look like the bad guy, since everyone else has taken the Pretend Uncle Racist Is Talking To Himself approach. So I would just ignore. If for some reason you are approached with racism, a simple "Wow." delivered deadpan will be subtle enough to not make you the trouble maker, but WILL alert others present you have their number.Then walk away. I'm from a part of the country that has a very subtle (and at times, NOT so subtle) racism to it, and it can be hard to navigate the line between my own sense of justice and Keeping The Peace at an event that is not mine. My *own* events I've laid down the law on - for example, at my first wedding I warned everyone at advance gay and non-white people would be there, sometimes a combo of the two, and that ABSOLUTELY NO COMMENTS were to be made, everyone on their best behavior. Everyone behaved.Since it's not YOUR event, you don't really have the...authority, I guess is the word....to police behavior. The best you can do is avoid it, and if unavoidable, make no scene and leave.Yeah it sucks. Family stuff does a lot of the time.impolite
So why should I really care? They live in a completely different area of the country and we don't interact a lot. But this family event (a wedding) will expose the new members to this crap and I really don't want the new in-laws to think we are all like that. Unfortunately, the general culture of non-confrontation means that others won't speak up.If you happen to be in an area where the new inlaws are gathered and this person starts in with his line of BS, just smile at them, shrug your shoulders and tell them "You know, he just hasn't been the same since the accident" and then walk away. That way they get that you don't believe in what he's spouting, but you keep it from becoming hostile.BTW: you mentioned that you were surprised that they have such strong feelings, given that they live in a pretty non-diverse area. I'm not at all surprised. Most people have a harder type sterotyping if they actually have interactions with the people they disparage.LWW
I don't believe you can change racial prejudice.I think you can make the expression of such prejudice socially unacceptable. And I think it's important to do so.
I don't believe you can change racial prejudice.I already posted a reply, but I want to add something.It might not be possible for me or you to change someone's attitude, but is is possible for people to change their own attitude about race.Look no further than the late Gov. George Wallace. The same man who once stood in the schoolhouse door (literally, at the University of Alabama) to block black students from enrolling, and who famously said, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" spent the final 20 years of his life speaking at black churches and NAACP meetings, seeking forgiveness for his racist past.
HAPPY FOOLIVERSARY stevenjlein!!! Yay!!! Balloons!!!impolite
stevenI would like to agree, but I have never seen it.Remember it took a near death situation to change George Wallace's thoughts.My confrontation is something like "That's racist" and walk away.But some people are proud to be a racist and a lot of others keep it under wraps. I still hope for change. But it may take a few more generations.jC
How abt changing the subject? "OMG didn't you love so and so's performance on The Voice this week?" "How bout those Cards hey?!"
Dealing with racist relativesIn my experience, whether you can influence people in a crowd depends mostly on how much power or "cred" you have with the members. My father was the most popular, charismatic, and powerful person in our family, very outgoing and intelligent, with strong opinions and quick on his feet. He could take anyone down about anything and seemingly not be thought ill of or necessarily have a bad scene result--although he occasionally left bruised feelings (and frustrated opponents!) in his wake. He could even get away with being thoughtless or a silly drunk, things others could't overcome. A person of such stature in a group can lead the conversation away from practically anything, even racism. Sometimes a less powerful person can become a temporary leader, or a leader on a particular issue, if they can strike the right tone and body language and choose the right words. Whenever I wonder why some bozo is running for high office, I remember that they want to change not only national policies, but the national conversation, from, for example, social justice and approval of those who work for it, to ruthless capitalism and approval of those who make the most money. =alstro, obviously not good at this myself ;-)
How abt changing the subject? "OMG didn't you love so and so's performance on The Voice this week?"To which the racist will resound, "Yeah, those blacks folks have a natural sense of rhythm."(And they'll think to themselves, "I'm not racist; that's a compliment.")
"To which the racist will resound…"I meant to write, "To which the racist will respond…"I was foiled by automatic spelling corruption.
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