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?

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.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (42 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
No, you're not overreacting. I would have your husband provide examples of how this has hurt other people's careers, so even if she can't perceive that she is hurting other people, she can grasp that she might damage herself.

But yeah, wait a few days, and stay out of it.
posted by desjardins at 11:25 AM on May 20, 2014 [42 favorites]

Man, who cares? Her racist birthday party has got nothing to do with you.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:26 AM on May 20, 2014 [12 favorites]

You're not overreacting. Let your husband deal with it.
posted by ravioli at 11:27 AM on May 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Not your business. You're not overreacting though -- but I'd just stay out of it after voicing your totally-reasonable objections.
posted by wrok at 11:28 AM on May 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wowzers... I guess this could be chalked up to "different areas of the nation are INCREDIBLY different" orrrrrr "some recent college grads are startlingly naive", depending on how charitable you want to be.

You didn't overreact. However, stay WAY THE HELL out of it. There is rarely anything to be gained from tussling with an SO's family member(s)... that's their responsibility. People will often forgive their immediate family for all kinds of stuff that - had a third party or in-law expressed it - would be grounds for a permanent grudge.

That being said: holy crap, I'm from a major East Coast city and I'm gonna tentatively state that 999 out of 1000 people surveyed here would agree that that party is RACIST AS HELL.
posted by julthumbscrew at 11:31 AM on May 20, 2014 [42 favorites]

1. Well, you don't get to tell other people how to be, and if you do there will probably be consequences. You get to decide how you be, and so the most you (he) should have said is, "While we think you probably aren't being malicious on purpose, your theme is too offensive for us to attend."

2/3: yeah, I think he needs to handle this. She would benefit from some brotherly advice, but she's not obligated to want it or take it. I'm sure she's not lying, she doesn't think it's awful and neither do her friends, because they're all stupid. I was also stupid at that age and it was fun to be controversial (and these kinds of themes are SO popular among the privileged that her echo chamber is going to tell her that it's totally fine).

There is nothing wrong with you guys standing your ground regarding what you will or won't condone, but since you weren't paying for or hosting the party you don't get to tell her she has to change it. It would have had more power to be the older role models rather than The Man keeping her down.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:32 AM on May 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

Canceling the party without being asked to do so makes it sound like she's pretty embarrassed. I wouldn't bring it up again unless you want to embarrass her more.
posted by theraflu at 11:33 AM on May 20, 2014 [35 favorites]

You are correct, you are not overreacting, she is a gross racist and has gross racist friends and knew gross racist people in college. And yes, if there are ever any (and i assume there are already) photos of her online in blackface it can absolutely hurt her career.

However I would absolutely recuse myself from this discussion and let my partner deal with their own racist family member unless they specifically asked for my backup in talking it over with them or stuffing them into a wicker man.
posted by elizardbits at 11:34 AM on May 20, 2014 [20 favorites]

You're not overreacting. I regularly see pictures of these sorts of parties pop up on social media, usually in a point-and-laugh-at-the-racists context. They circulate quite a bit, occasionally ending up somewhere highly visible.

If anything, you may have just saved her reputation and/or career. Because holy shit do Grown People (like employers and clients) not react well to seeing someone they deal with professionally in that kind of context.
posted by griphus at 11:34 AM on May 20, 2014 [13 favorites]

On re-reading, the fact that she cancelled the party altogether suggests that her echo chamber might not have turned out to be quite as echo-y as she thought. You and her brother might not have been the only dissenters, so she may be mad at you for being right and now she's embarrassed. Which, at that age, I think maybe you do just have to let it go and pretend it never happened.

Surely she wouldn't have cancelled just because the two oldsters didn't like it.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:38 AM on May 20, 2014 [33 favorites]

She's probably humiliated, and in being so, clearly not having any sense of shame at all, is interpreting it as anger. Give her space, be friendly to her at family functions, try not to take it personally. She is very young and by definition an idiot. Your husband has saved her from a memory that would have pained her forever.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:41 AM on May 20, 2014 [20 favorites]

I think what you guys did was totally appropriate (although I personally wouldn't have continued to push after the first suggestion).

For 2, I say keep the lines of communication open, but don't bring up the party again. Do something like inviting her over for dinner or taking her out or something. Resist either 1) forcing her to admit that she was being racist about the party or 2) apologizing for calling her on trying to throw a racist party. Call her out again when she does something else stupid, but I think she's at least partially learning her lesson here.

For 3, definitely let your husband take the lead.
posted by mskyle at 11:45 AM on May 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

She's in the second phase of Being Angry With Someone You Love:

Phase 1 -- Mad at something you did. In this case, she's mad because you called her racist. I know, you didn't say that, but that's how it sounds to people these days when you say "Hey, this thing you're doing is kinda racist." This lasts a few days.

Phase 2 -- Mad at how you reacted to her being mad. That's where she is now -- she got mad, and you didn't back down and apologize, because clearly you were wrong, because obviously she's smart and doesn't do things that make people mad at her. This can last a few weeks, because it's self-reinforcing.

Phase 3 -- Mad because she's mad. This can last for the rest of your lives, because there's nothing you can do to end it.

Extend an olive branch before she gets into Phase 3, or at least advise your husband to do so. A few days of cooling off is fine, but not more than a couple of weeks.
posted by Etrigan at 11:49 AM on May 20, 2014 [35 favorites]

You aren't overreacting about the party, but once you put her on notice that it was racist you did all you could. The second "push" went too far, and you should probably lay low for a while.

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

I think you did, too. Look, it sounds to me like she had an idea, you brought up your concerns, she revised her idea/invitation... and you kept on her about it, making yourselves the de facto arbiter of her party. I know you had the best of intentions but she probably felt like she had to run everything by you, and not by choice, and that's not the way people like to plan parties.

I also would not be surprised if instead of canceling the party she just canceled the Facebook or Evite invite, blocked you on social media, and then sent out a brand new invite without you guys on it.

There was a recent Ask a Manager post about a gross misogynistic party, not directly analogous (coworkers vs. family) but still may be enlightening, and if you think your sister-in-law may be receptive to reading it (coming from a neutral party instead of her big brother), it could help her understand the social and professional ramifications of something like this.
posted by payoto at 11:51 AM on May 20, 2014 [8 favorites]

Mod note: This is a followup from the asker.
This all makes sense to me already. I'm going to stay out of it, and let my husband initiate any further conversation with her. She's a lovely person, and I think this will end well, but it's best for me to recuse myself in the meantime and let the siblings hash it out if they want to. Thanks for the quick advice here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:53 AM on May 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Let your husband take the lead.

I have a family member of the same age range, about to graduate from college (I am old enough to be his parent). A photo was posted of him at a party where he was wearing a piece of clothing that was given to him by someone from a particular nation, which was completely appropriate for him to wear given that it was a gift. But the other person in the photo was wearing some clothing and cosmetics that made me go WTF, *that* is just in poor taste, if not outright racist. After some thought, I contacted my family member and voiced my concerns, not about his choices, but about what might be inferred by someone who didn't know him who saw the photo. He got it immediately, thanked me for helping him figure out what was bothering him about it that he couldn't quite name, got himself untagged from the photo, and actually got the friend who posted it to take it down completely. We had a good conversation about it, and I'm glad I reached out.

It's too bad that your SIL didn't react in a similar fashion, but some people need to learn lessons the hard way. At this point, you can't save her from herself and you'll need to let it go. If there is further discussion, it should come from your husband.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 11:54 AM on May 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

You're probably overreacting. While it is probably in poor taste, it is a theme based on lots of pop culture motifs and rap culture. It's true that poorer urban areas have different styles, but I'm not really convinced we have to view them as sacred for any strong reason. So someone is having an over-the-top theme? So what? If she said she was not friends with black people because she doesn't trust them, then you should probably interfere. Otherwise it's important to remember that not everyone has the same progressive views on what is and is not racially sensitive, and it can be a little self-indulgent to assume that your view is the enlightened one and that you have the authority to decide which of her parties or themes are acceptable or unacceptable. No one would balk if it were an Oktober-fest theme. My point isn't that you're wrong, but that it can often seem forced to tell people what cultural-themes are okay and not okay, and most people really don't have a heightened concern towards these things as so often is assumed to be the truth on Metafilter.

More importantly, it's pretty harmless. Just let your husband deal with it if he must. Even if she is upset, she could easily forgive him. But she will forever view you as a condescending buzz-kill.

And for the record, I wouldn't attend a party like that either. I may not think it's racist, but I certainly think it's gaudy. If it were my younger brother I'd just say "Dude, do what you want. But you're 22 now and this stuff is pretty childish, and other people could see it as being in poor taste."
posted by jjmoney at 12:07 PM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Give her about a week to cool down and then (you and/or your husband) follow up with with an email that you understand that she wasn't being racist on purpose, but that going forward she should be aware that the world is changing and that those sorts of theme parties just aren't acceptable anymore.

Tell her that that there have been several highly publicized incidents of organizations hosting what they thought were harmless fun theme parties that ended up offending several people and ruining the reputations and careers of the party hosts. Tell her that even if she personally doesn't see the harm in such a party, that in this age of social media the risk of her name/picture being associated with "racist" behavior is too high and that you don't want to see her professional reputation and career trashed when she's only just getting started.

Make this a teaching opportunity -- she needs to learn this.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:10 PM on May 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you ever seen Jay Smooth's tutorial on how to tell someone that they sound racist? It's three minutes, it's fantastic. It gives you some great ideas on how to approach the question, in case you ever have the opportunity again. Anon, I know that you have done much of what he suggests, but it's still worth a watch.
posted by janey47 at 12:13 PM on May 20, 2014 [9 favorites]

You guys did her a HUGE favor, and I believe she will ultimately come to realize that.

That party could have come back to haunt her for years, and one of the details of it strikes me as extremely offensive: "... served, along with purple Kool-Aid... ."

The only source I was able to find which wasn't surprisingly coy about racial breakdown says 70% of the victims of Jonestown were black-- and Jones was white.

I wouldn't hesitate to mention that to her should the opportunity offer itself.
posted by jamjam at 12:20 PM on May 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I remember the first time that I learned people were having "Pimp and Hos" parties, or whatever it is they actually call them, often with super-racist themed attire. I remember being absolutely aghast that this was a thing that took place and was normalized.

I think if anything, she may be upset because she thinks you are suggesting that she, outside of her surroundings, is racist, rather than being a decent person in surroundings where racism flourishes.
posted by corb at 12:20 PM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm from the South, and the majority of my family members are totally racist. The gangsta birthday party would be pretty tame as far as embarrassing racist gaffes I've seen my relatives make.

I really do feel like the "but we're family and we love each other" thing cuts both ways. You suffer their bullshit, and you also get to call them out. Because you're family and you love each other. Just like she's not going to stop being your sister because she's racist, you're not going to stop being her sister because you're calling her on it.

One thing I would say is to not expect to convince her of anything within a single conversation. I've had lots of "OMG we do not say the N-word, not even privately, it's just not done" conversations, and while no member of my family has ever agreed with me about it, I've noticed a gradual decline in, if nothing else, the extent to which they're willing to say it in front of me.

I would not expect to get measurable results like a canceled party or an admission of "yes that was racist and I shouldn't have done it" or whatever you're imagining. Any change that happens is going to be invisible to you. But that doesn't mean you should "stay out of it", either.
posted by Sara C. at 12:26 PM on May 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

You know what? I think it was totally appropriate to say what you did and I think you should follow up, although probably via the "would you like to see your career crash and burn" route rather than the "OMG that is so racist" route.

My feeling is that we aren't just responsible for ourselves and racism isn't just one of the ways that people are different from one another or a personal choice. This girl is moving up in her industry, right? What happens when she gets to a hiring position? Or a position where she has some sway over media? If she's comfortable with this level of "black people are racist stereotypes", how is she going to handle hiring? Is she going to be inclusive when she's in charge of things? If she is "inclusive", will it be by including bullshit?

We're not just responsible for ourselves. We're responsible to society as a whole, and the "you be you, but your party is too racist for my taste" approach...holy crap, if one of my friends had a "dress up like a tr***y" party and others of my friends were just "eh, well, I'm not going but he has to be himself even if it's offensive", I would feel really fucking betrayed by those friends. While I don't know how many friends or colleagues of color you have, take a moment to imagine that you were telling them this story.

In a sense we can't change others - you can't literally force this girl to change her mind or her actions. But you can strongly suggest that her actions are not just unwise for her career but actually cause harm to others.

I would personally expect ructions - but the thing is, people often react to being told plausibly that they are wrong by pitching a fit at first to salve their dignity and then backing down.

I think the Jay Smooth approach is a good one with a little bit of "racism causes material harm even when it's unintentional" thrown in. And obviously, you should do this in tandem with your SO, not off your own bat - or he should do it, since probably a one-on-one conversation would be less threatening.
posted by Frowner at 12:28 PM on May 20, 2014 [13 favorites]

She's utterly ignorant and you guys helped her and her career prospects in a major way. She may be upset now but give her time to stop being stupid and embarrassed about being ignorant, and she'll come around and hopefully learn something.

But don't tolerate her racism. If she has any intelligence whatsoever, she'll recognize how stupid she was.
posted by discopolo at 12:40 PM on May 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I vote to stay out of it but what about Grape Kool-Aid/Soda and watermelon makes her happy? Do those items really make her happy or does mocking black people make her happy?

I think it's okay that you brought this to her attention once but I probably wouldn't have pushed it. I would let it go. While definitely racist she's probably not malicious.
posted by Fairchild at 12:41 PM on May 20, 2014

I would suspect that the cancellation of the party means that either (1) other people also started independently making the same points that you and your husband did, or (2) she complained to one of her friend that you guys said her party was racist and her friend said "yeeeeah, about that.." and concurred. She may have thought about it more, realized that you had a point, cancelled the party, and now she's both mortified and pissed.

Even if she knows you were right, she's probably not going to want to tell you guys that or hear about it. I'd be inclined to never mention it again -- but if she does something else in the future that seems racist, address that separately.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 12:41 PM on May 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

I can see why you're horrified, but check your own privilege, too. People do all sorts of stupid stuff in their 20s, and learn from their mistakes. Perhaps sharing your own dumb stunts and what you learned from those might be a way to ease into this sort of conversation, rather than self-righteous indignation and judgments about how white-bread she is.

You might want to post Ask A Manager's recent thread on a CEOs and Hos party where she can read it.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:48 PM on May 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

what about Grape Kool-Aid/Soda and watermelon makes her happy? Do those items really make her happy or does mocking black people make her happy?


1. Parties are fun.

2. Parties with a theme are more fun.

I honestly doubt the thinking went further than that, it's the definition of ignorance.
posted by Cosine at 12:48 PM on May 20, 2014 [10 favorites]

You were correct. This kind of party can make national news.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:49 PM on May 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

That party could have come back to haunt her for years, and one of the details of it strikes me as extremely offensive: "... served, along with purple Kool-Aid... ."

The only source I was able to find which wasn't surprisingly coy about racial breakdown says 70% of the victims of Jonestown were black-- and Jones was white.

I don't think that's a reference to Jonestown; in the context of the "gangsta" references I believe this alludes to purple drank.
posted by payoto at 12:55 PM on May 20, 2014 [12 favorites]

As a black person, If I walked into a party with this theme I would be deeply horrified and offended because it is racist despite what some people are saying.

You did your sister-in-law a favor by bringing in a perspective outside her personal experience. It is in your husband's hands how he handles it from now on since it is his sister.
posted by Julnyes at 12:56 PM on May 20, 2014 [14 favorites]

Hmm, I can't help but think that your SIL was trying to throw a very misguided 'American' themed party - which is a thing. Often times they draw on hip-hop culture and poke fun at American party concepts (ie: red solo cups, 'bro' attire, ect.). By no means am I trying to excuse her, but she may not have realized the concept is rooted in stereotypes/generalizations and would come off racist.

But I digress. To answer your questions:

1. No, you did not overreact. The party theme is "Black Culture Stereotypes/Generalizations". That is racist. However, she may not view it as such (ie: "Black people rap about 'purple drank'. How is it racist to serve that?"). So I think this may be a wonderful opportunity to educate someone whose whole concept of black culture is apparently gleaned from rap music. You shouldn't have to point out the flaw in such to her, but correcting her thinking now could be very helpful to her in the long run. Especially as it pertains to her career. If pics of her (offensive) party had gotten shared (which probably would've happened if they didn't see the offense in it), it likely would've not ended well for her.

2. and 3. Don't approach her. Since you and your hubby were equally mortified by this and are (seemingly) united, let him take the reins on this one. She is far more likely to concede to him than to you.
posted by stubbehtail at 1:11 PM on May 20, 2014

It's racist and you didn't overreact. She's young and she almost certainly doesn't have the full perspective on what she's doing.

Your husband has to do this, but I'd encourage him to come armed with clippings of articles of young people like her who are mocked online for their insensitivity and racism. They're not hard to find and it might just knock her into the right head space of "Oh crap, that was a dumb idea".

Right now she's in defensive mode. That's understandable. She felt under attack because what she thought was a fun party turned out to be something completely different. So she lashed out. Unless she is a racist at heart and not just a temporary, young, insensitive boob, this will blow over and she will grow up.
posted by inturnaround at 1:18 PM on May 20, 2014

I don't believe (the collective) you went too far at all. This is, IMHO, what older siblings do that others often can't -- push back repeatedly on something as poorly thought out as this, assuming you have a good relationship with each other. As an oldest sibling, I would absolutely do exactly the same thing, because I can be the pain-in-the-ass-buzzkill who's looking out for my brother or sister's best interests.

Having said that, you (not the collective) need to now get the hell out of the way completely, let your husband continue any discussions or attempts to communicate, and let him be the owner of your (collective) opinion -- like you never said a word about it, and you never will again. For example:

"*I* (not we) love you, and understand that you were not intending the party to be anything other than a good time. *I* (not we) just wanted to make sure it didn't impact on people's impression of you, because you're a fabulous person who I think just didn't see how others might view the party theme."

As many others have wisely suggested, you should be persona non grata from this point on, and let your husband take the lead/blame entirely.
posted by liquado at 1:22 PM on May 20, 2014

You're not overreacting in the sense of "is this racist?". Of course it is, and not in "people might see this differently" sort of way. This isn't wearing a sombrero on Cinco De Mayo.

You are, however, overreacting in the "what should I do about it" sense.

This is your husband's issue to pursue should he choose to. You made your views clear once. Twice was not necessary. There's no point in pushing further once she's heard you out. Just because you're right- and you are- doesn't mean you need to or are going to make her agree.

dropped us from all social media

This is honestly how it should be. At 22, she's rightfully not interested in your approval, and wants to do what she wants to do. Again, what she is doing is stupid and racist, but people don't want their social media as a way for people to approve or disapprove of their plans. You are no longer acting as friends, you are acting as quasi-parents, so she's logically rethinking how she wants to be connected to you.

This is a seprate issue from her party. If you want to approve and disapprove of what other people are doing, you have to accept that it changes your relationship. Being right doesn't make you immune.

Don't approach her, and let your husband do whatever he thinks is best. This may have changed your relationship permanantly, or at least until your sister-in-law changes her perspective.
posted by spaltavian at 1:35 PM on May 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Thank you for being willing to risk friction to help her. Many people wouldn't have said anything, which could have led to much more embarrassment for her.
posted by amtho at 2:48 PM on May 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

You were right and you were right to push twice. I didn't get a break from being black in my twenties because some rich kids are dumb, so the notion she deserves a break is truly shocking. She is wrong and hurting other people, and I really appreciate you guys saying something, being in the perfect place to do. Risking people you love getting made is one of the ways change is made.
posted by dame at 3:05 PM on May 20, 2014 [29 favorites]

There's good advice in this thread. There was also recently some press on Millennials and racism. MTV, of all places, did a survey of people ages 14 to 24, to gauge their attitudes about race and racism and the results were summed up by Slate in this way:

Overall, MTV confirms the general view of millennials: Compared with previous generations, they’re more tolerant and diverse and profess a deeper commitment to equality and fairness. At the same time, however, they’re committed to an ideal of colorblindness that leaves them uncomfortable with race, opposed to measures to reduce racial inequality, and a bit confused about what racism is.

I think you were more than right to have this conversation with your sister-in-law and I think you should follow your husband's lead in trying to patch things up.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:22 PM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think that you absolutely were right in talking to her about this.

Personal anecdote: I used to be a historical reenactor. What that means, for a battle reenactment, is that some actors portray the "good guys," Americans/Union soldiers/etc. and some actors have to portray the "bad guys," Nazis/Confederates/etc. I never cared which side that I was cast in, as long as the public seemed to learn something about American history. Until a man showed up to inform me that he was very offended that I was cast as a Nazi for the WWII battle later that day. There seems to be this assumption that people aren’t really tone deaf, they're just assholes, but I don't think that's always true. Sometimes people aren't aware of their own privilege until you make them aware of how their actions effect people with different life experiences than their own.

Hopefully, you've helped her to think about her actions from a different perspective, which may make her reconsider not only the party, but her place in this world. That, in my opinion, is worth a certain amount of friction.
posted by Shouraku at 5:21 PM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's good you had this conversation with her now. How horrible would it be if you had to explain to your kid why auntie's casual racism made another kid cry? Because let me tell you, racist relatives stay racist til someone makes them stop.
posted by spunweb at 7:44 PM on May 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think you are amazing from calling her out (maybe cause I am a minority but I digress)....as Everyone said stay the hell out from now on and be glad that your husband understands while coming from the same household.
posted by The1andonly at 7:48 PM on May 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also, one thing that your husband may want to mention if he decides to discuss this further with her, is that culturally or racially appropriating for a party theme is offensive in general. I mention this because her "gangster" party is obviously racist, and she may now understand that, but if she doesn't understand the wider issue her next party could very well be one that appropriates various Indian cultures, Native American cultures, Asian cultures, etc.

There is a really great website about why caricaturizing people into costumes is so offensive. I believe that it was formed at Ohio State University around Halloween. You may want to consider forwarding it on to her: We're a culture, not a costume
posted by Shouraku at 9:36 AM on May 21, 2014

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