How to deal with a racist boyfriend?
December 2, 2008 11:11 PM Subscribe
How do I deal with a racist boyfriend? How did you help someone overcome their racism, or did someone help you overcome yours?
posted by lblair to human relations (55 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have a boyfriend who I get along with and have a great time with, but one thing that absolutely drives me crazy is when the racism comes out. Usually it's when he's drunk and in front 'the guys.'
In general, I would simply not associate with people who I thought were racist, but he really is a good person aside from this, and I want to help him come around. (You know how it goes- the last person you ever thought you'd date ends up being one of the best people you've known, despite their flaws.) In any case, I disagree with an argument that I see a lot on this topic- that racism is a learned behavior. If you read (and agree with) evolutionary psychology, it suggests that racism IS innate and that, in fact, people have to learn NOT to be racist (by exposure to people from other races, and to other people who aren't racist.) I think this explanation makes a lot more sense. I'm not condoning racism, I am not racist- I recognize that I was lucky to be raised by liberal parents in a diverse community. But I do think it helps to explain why otherwise intelligent people, who just happened to be sheltered, can end up this way ( e.g. my boyfriend.) It also has made me a tiny bit more forgiving towards those who are racist. Not in the sense that I would put up with it long term, but in the sense that I would be more forgiving of the occasional slip up if he was genuinely trying to change.
In any case, based on this belief I do believe that it's possible for people who are racist to change- it seems that the younger you are, the easier this would be. He is 26 so I think it would be challenging, but possible. I've already tried a few tactics. I've tried to expose him to people of different races, tell him about my friends and people I know of different races. I've also made it a point to tell him this stuff isn't funny when he starts cracking jokes- but unfortunately, his other friends still laugh when he cracks them. So basically my question is this- if you have seen someone else go from being racist to not, how do you think it happened? If you were the one who overcame racism, how did you do it? I know he makes a pretty good effort to not say things like that around me, but I'd prefer it if he was able to reach a point where he wasn't saying (or thinking) them at all. Although I am willing to be patient now, in the long run it would be a dealbreaker (as in, I would break up with him if the racism did not cease.) I've said as much to him, unfortunately the couple times it's come up have been while we were drinking (while he was cracking the jokes,) so I'm not entirely sure whether he realizes I am serious.
I can also sort of tell that he is afraid of/ feels threatened by black men. Of course, I think it's ridiculous, but I know that when fear is involved, people become irrational. How do I deal with that? Thanks in advance, everyone.