How do I deal with casual racism at family gatherings?
January 30, 2010 11:22 AM Subscribe
My brothers-in-law tell racist and homophobic jokes at family gatherings. This makes me and my husband uncomfortable. What should we do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I am pretty sure they'd never say anything to someone's face, or commit overt acts against someone. I say this not to excuse their behavior but to delineate them from someone who is openly oppressive, like a neo-Nazi or a Klan member.
If we say something, there will be no support from anyone else. My sisters roll their eyes and sigh but otherwise don't do anything to curb this behavior. They will leap to the defense of their husbands. My parents don't have any reaction whatsoever to these remarks and their default mentality is "don't rock the boat." My father doesn't like their general sense of humor because it's crude, and I think he lumps the racist stuff in with that. My parents are very conservative (they asked for "Going Rogue" for Christmas) but they don't discuss politics in front of me or my husband. We're the liberals of the family.
Another reason we haven't said anything is that they're heavy drinkers. One is known to get into bar fights. They're bigger than my husband, and although it's unlikely they'd hit him, alcohol makes you do stupid stuff. It's more likely that they'd act incredulous at our offense (especially because we've let this go on too long) and dismiss us as lacking a sense of humor. Relations would be strained, to put it mildly.
I want to say something because it's wrong in general and makes us uncomfortable, but also because they both have young children. I haven't seen the kids pick up on this yet but it seems inevitable especially now that they're in school and presumably there are kids of other races there. If one of the kids turns out to be gay/lesbian, his/her dad's remarks are sure to have a profound effect on him/her.
We see them about every other month, almost exclusively at my parents' house. We hardly ever hang out with them on their own. My husband wants to say something to my parents along the lines of if this continues, we're not coming over anymore. I'm not sure what to say. I'm embarrassed that I've let this go for years, they were in the picture long before I met my husband. What do we do?