What to do when a family member is offensive, but you love them, anyway?
May 20, 2014 11:22 AM Subscribe
A beloved family member was unexpectedly (and likely unintentionally) racist. We called her out on it. She didn't react well. What to do next?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (42 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
My sister-in-law is a sweet, kind, intelligent person who grew up in a small town and went to college in a small town. She's 22 and has friends in the same demographic. She was in an all-white sorority in school and attended questionable parties involving themes such as different races and religions. She now has a great job and is moving up the ladder at an impressive pace for someone in her industry.
She sent out an invite for her upcoming birthday party. The party required guest to "dress gangsta," with jerseys and Jordans, and that watermelon "and things like that" would be served, along with purple Kool-Aid. The only people invited were white upper-middle-class people her age (besides us - we're 10 years older). The invite goes on with more details in this vein.
My husband and I were horrified. He called her to gently break the news that while she likely didn't mean this and apparently got to age 22 without understanding the nuances of casual racism, her party was, in fact, racist. She didn't react well. She took out some of the more racist wording in the invite, but kept the party on and insisted that she went to "way worse" parties in college and that all of her friends told her this was fine and not racist. She insisted that "sometimes you just have to do what makes you happy, even if other people don't like."
We pushed again - kindly and firmly - and she has now canceled the party, dropped us from all social media and won't talk to us. We didn't ask her to cancel the party - just to consider the tone of what she was doing. I believe she thinks we bullied her into this and doesn't understand the professional and personal ramifications of throwing a party like this.
I'm sad and disappointed and conflicted on what to do. I love her, and have known her since she was 10 years old, and I'm both angry she's reacting this way and also empathetic to the fact that it's very hard to hear something you're doing is racist. I need a bit of sanity check from the group:
1. Are we overreacting? Is this, in fact, not a big deal and we're making it a big deal? No one else has brought this up to her except us, though we've privately talked with a few other family and friends who agree with us. I want to make sure I'm not pushing something on her that's bigger in my head than reality.
2. How should I approach her, as a next step? I want to give us all a few days to cool off, but she's family, I love her and I don't want there to be a grudge between us. Should I talk to her? Wait for her to talk to us?
3. She's very close to her brother (my husband). Should I step out completely and let the two of them work through it?
This is something that happened and escalated quickly, and I want the best possible outcome for all of us. Thanks for your advice.