racists in the family

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-2003
racists in the family
Thu, 07-24-2003 - 11:23am
Here's the deal...

I was raised in the south, still live here and love it most of the time. There is still a lot of racism here. (I think it's everywhere, but people in the south tend to be more vocal about it instead of trying to hide it.)

Unlike many of the women in my family who are my age or older, I have a career that I love. I meet all kinds of people and have developed a respect for people of all colors, shapes and cultures (ok I still have a problem with a few cultures but that's my hang-up and I'm working on it.) I'm writing because a few of my relatives and in-laws are still very racist and I don't always know how to respond to their remarks. I have politely disagreed and made my case as effectively as possible but you can't reason with an unreasonable attitude. So now several relatives and in-laws deliberately try to bait me and upset me by making outrageous statements in front of me -- criticizing interracial couples and that sort of thing. (None of these people are on the level of the KKK, and most of them would go out of their way to help anyone who needed it, black or white. They're just very closed-minded.)

Don't get me wrong, I love most of these people. I just wish they could open their hearts, and if they can't, I wish they would shut the hell up and quit trying to bait me. If I say anything, the discussion escalates, and if I don't, I feel I've condoned their attitude.

Anyone better than me at handling this sort of thing? I'd especially like to hear if this sort of thing goes on in black families as well, or other ethnic groups. Advice please!

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-30-2003
Thu, 07-24-2003 - 3:25pm
Racism happens in all families - regardless of the race or religion. It is a human trait.

The way to deal with it is to not discuss it with them. Walk away. You know that you cannot change them and they are baiting you. The next time they try to, say something like, "You know my feelings on this matter. If you cannot refrain from this type of talk, I will have to leave" Then do it.

The only way to stop it is to not allow it around you. That is what I did. Of course I got the snide remarks from family but I didn't let it bother me. After constant behaviour on my part (walking away), they stopped.

Dunno if my family has racist feelings anymore, but at least they don't talk about it when I am around.

Good luck!

Ejkdmom Come visit my store: www.leorra.com
Avatar for cl_2and1more
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-20-2003
Thu, 07-24-2003 - 5:33pm
You have made your feeling known and you do not have to rehash them every time someone makes a comment. If they are trying to bait you, then each time they get you upset it just addes to their enjoyment of the game. So I think having a short reply that you say each time something comes up and then leaving it there is the best thing. They may tire of the game and quit trying to bait you. Say something like "and they probably think the same about you" "you only say those things because your jealous" something that feels right to you.

As far as being a minority - I am not one but I was for a short period of time. My husband and I along with our two girls (then) lived in Jamaica for 6 months as missionaries. We lived up in the hills at a boys home. Although my husband went down the mountain and into town to buy supplies I rarely left the mountain side. (The girls would throw up coming down to winding road every one always driving at top speed) We were watched and talked about and people based an opinion about all white americans based on what we did. It was odd and lonely. I could be in a group of people and feel so lonely. No one wanted to connect with me. They would stare and whisper but keep their distance. I am much more aware of minority people in my presence now. I know how it can be to a black person and walk into a room of white people and feel left out. I try to be aware of this and make every effort to include people. I was never racist but I never put myself out before either. We live in a mostly white area, our church is most white with a few people of different races mixed in. One day, two black families were moving out of the area and one of the women took time to speak on racism at Pastor's request. She told about how it felt to go to our church and feel excluded. And although she knew that most of us were nice people, there were not too many people who made friends with her and the other black families. The words were spoken well and moved me to understand a bit deeper. I never talked with these women while they were at church. It was not because they were black but because they were business women and a bit older than me. I didn't feel a connection with them at all in our lifestyles. But I wonder if when I passed her by she thought I didn't approach her because of her race. It is so easy to have misunderstandings.

Sorry, I seemed to have written a book. But your question and open offer for comments just breought it out of me. And just so there is no misunderstanding, I used the term black because that is the term I know. I hate all this political correct stuff - who can keep up. My friends that are black call themselves black. I know a lot of people call themselves African-American now-a-days. So no harm intended.


iVillage Member
Registered: 04-24-2003
Thu, 07-24-2003 - 5:45pm
I am Latin and my parents seems to have a real problem with other Latinos. Really only one group that I have heard of most of my life, Puerto Ricans. We are Dominican. I guess there has been issues between them for a long time. I think the issue is mainly between Dominican's and Puerto Ricans from the Islands as opposed to those of us raised here in the U.S.

There were always comments about how immoral and lazy they were. What is funny that growing up none of my friends were Dominican. In fact we lived in a Puerto Rican neighborhood. It was Italian and German when my parents bought the home but as usually happened back then and unfortunately still today when the minorities move in, the Caucasians move out (there is even a Synagogue one house over that was only used on special holidays - I guess they didn't see fit to use it year round. It has recently been sold and they plan to tear it down). So by the time I was old enough to notice everyone around us was Puerto Rican or Black. There were other Latino cultures of course but not in large numbers.

Well as I said earlier none of my friends were Dominican they were actually mostly Puerto Rican and black. So I never shared the views my parents had. I saw that some people were low lives but that it had nothing to do with whether or not they were Puerto Rican. Most of the Dominicans I ran into that were not family were drug dealers anyway so I didn't see the difference.

Well anyway as you have probably already figured out I married a Puerto Rican. My mom almost had a coronary and threatened to disown me. Although, her real objection was my age she didn't hesitate to bring up the Puerto Rican issue. My brother has three children with two different Puerto Rican women. Unfortunately, the women he chose were/are of the kind of people my parents always used to talk about but I don't care about that. However, my Mom uses this for ammunition every now and then. I just point out to my Mom that my brother happens to be one of those kinds as well and that is probably why he chose people like that. I know plenty of wonderful Puerto Ricans to know they are not representative. The children are wonderful and they are my half Puerto Rican nieces and nephew.

What kills me is that sometimes my parents still chime in with some Puerto Rican comments and I always shoot them down and basically tell them to stop talking such nonsense. My DH has shown to be a wonderful man and husband and they can't deny that. I remind them of this every time they start making stupid comments. At this point now that it has been almost 10 years I have been w/ DH they don't do it as much because they realize I will yell at them. I am notoriously argumentative.

So we may not be in the exact same boat because they do not try to aggravate me, but know that your not alone on the river of ignorance. Some people have been trained to believe some things and will never look at facts and realize those ideas were wrong. People are who they are for a variety of reasons. Race alone can not be responsible for someone's personality, morals and values. Those things are shaped by the people and places surrounding us and some pick the better routes than others. Pick your battles I guess. Whenever you have the energy see if you can enlighten them.

Know that you are not like them an when you start to have your own personal issues stop yourself and try to trace where that issue really comes from and if it has any real validity.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-03-2003
Sat, 07-26-2003 - 10:55pm
First of all i can say that its very rare that apoint made on the opposite side of agreement in an arguement with older relatives on the subject they were born to believe, will never change nor will it ever cease to exist. Perhaps if you can ignore them, it would be best, but if not, stand your ground! Good Luck! -Bunny
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-24-2003
Sun, 07-27-2003 - 11:47am
People who make put-down comments about other races, are trying to make themselves feel better or superior in some way. In my experience, it is usually "low-lifes" who make racist comments.
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-24-2003
Mon, 07-28-2003 - 10:25am
That is certainly true in some cases but we can't forget about people who were raised that way. To believe these things.

It was easier for our generation and even the one before to make a decision for themselves because they had a better chance of meeting and interacting with all different types of people. Plus we also have to look at education as a factor in racism. People who are educated usually are not racist even if they have been raised that way.

My parents are prejudiced but they are not low-lives. They are ignorant and blinded by their way of life. They have very conservative ideas about life and many Puerto-Ricans at least those living in the U.S. that we have had contact with are much less conservative in the way they live their lives. Therefore, coupled with the ideas they were brought up with and the everyday examples of certain types of people that to them are living their lives incorrectly these ideas to them remain correct.

I have a different view of people than they do. I try my best not to judge others because truly you can't until you walk in their shoes. What makes it difficult is when you see these people making wrong decision after wrong decision as if they do not learn from their mistakes or just don't care what happens to them. These are the types of people who seem to make up a large number of my old neighborhood which my parents still live in and in fact as I mentioned in my last post, my brother happens to be one of them. He became sucked into the life style of right now is what is important and not ever worrying about the consequences of your actions. The reality really is that it is not Puerto-Ricans who make the type of decisions my parents do not agree with it is the majority from my old neighborhood regardless of race. My old neighborhood is very poor and some people are living in poverty. It is urban so there is a lot of violent crimes and drug use. Alcohol and hard drugs has the community in its grips. It is a hard place to live and grow up and choices are made in these surroundings fitting to the surroundings. Some can see beyond their surroundings others can not. Unfortunately, a good amount of these people are Puerto-Rican and for those like my parents who do not take the time to get to know them personally and only use their negative contacts with them as reason enough to believe those things, well you get the picture.

They are close-minded people yes but I would not call them low-lives. I do not believe all they believe in although, there are some ideas about life that they provided that I do agree with.

I am not excusing their ignorance but I will not agree that they are low-lives.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-2003
Wed, 07-30-2003 - 11:32am
I agree. It would be a lot easier to just dismiss everyone who makes a racist comment as a low-life and forget about them. But that would include an awful lot of people of all colors and backgrounds. It's harder to dismiss people as low-lifes when they are people you know and love, who might have even raised you or made sacrifices so that you or others could have a better life. One of these so-called "low-lifes" in my family once risked his own life to rescue a black man who was being assaulted outside a bar. He doesn't truly hate anyone -- he just has some deeply ingrained attitudes about race, gender and so forth.

But I have to agree that sometimes people put others down in an effort to build themselves up and feel superior. People who feel powerless in their own lives or who feel inferior a lot of time may do this unconsciously (or consciously). We might all do this to some degree -- putting down better-looking women or people who are from a different part of the country, whose standard of living is much higher or lower than ours, etc.

I believe that just about everyone has a tendency to prejudge based on race, gender, background, social standing and so forth. We have to educate ourselves to recognize this and try to correct it. But I guess it's a personal battle -- you really can't do this for someone else or change a mind that is already made up.

My problem is that I tend to lose my patience and temper, and sometimes I feel just like Lenda -- I just want to say, family or not, you are all low-lifes. But I don't think that is right, and I'm sure I would regret it.