Help Me Not Be A Coward
January 3, 2018 11:48 AM   Subscribe

My friend has changed in really disturbing ways. Details inside.

"Paul" has been my BFF for almost 20 years. I don't have any other really close friends due to "circumstances" and I am pretty much estranged from my family. Paul is the one person (besides husband) I can genuinely say, if I needed him, he would come, no matter what . Over the years Paul has been a kind, generous friend who truly supports me, my goals, and my artistic endeavors. We love traveling together, and hang out whenever we can, though we live on opposite sides of the country so its not often. Paul even helped me get jobs for awhile when I began freelancing. If my husband dies before I do, Paul is named as the executor of my will. Really he is more of a brother than a BFF.

Sadly, Paul lost his father a couple of years ago. It was extremely quick and completely out of the blue. It left Paul with only one living relative, and began to change him in ways I found very troubling. Over time, Paul became increasingly interested in firearms and began to buy a lot of guns. His interest in the military intensified (before his dad's death it was a mild interest). His politics (never something we never discussed before) became strongly right wing conservative. The people he hung out with changed too.

At first I was hoping our love and respect for each other would be a bit of a tether, or at least a better comfort than the guns and fear speech. He knows I am completely opposite him in my interests and beliefs. We have managed to keep the friendship by agreeing not to discuss politics at all. We joke that I am the hippy tree huger in his life, but I think all the while we've been avoiding the subject, he's been going deeper and deeper down a road that I find abhorrent and frightening.

This all culminated last month when he and his surviving relative were vacationing with me. We were shopping in a small town and went into a jewelry shop where the owner was wearing a hijab. Paul's relative made a whispered comment to me using a racial slur. I was shocked and moved away, not knowing what to do, or how to handle it. In the very next store, Paul made a horribly racist comment out loud, referring to the other shopkeeper. I was horrified, and to make everything worse the new shopkeeper who was also Muslim, emerged from the back room and said icily, "Can I help you?" To my shame, I did not apologize to the shopkeeper right then and there. My brain was in total turmoil, I simply stood miserably, staring at the floor. Once we were outside the shop I confronted Paul in front of his relative and told him he must never say anything like that around me again. But also to my shame, I made it easy for him, I said "Please, if you love me, never say anything like that again. I wanted to drop through the floor, that was horrible!" The relative said something like, "Yeah, that was pretty extreme." Paul kind of sheepishly agreed, laughed uncomfortably and then dropped the subject.

I know this was not a strong enough condemnation on my part. I feel sick knowing the poor shopkeeper heard such a horrible comment and got no support from me. The next day I had gone back to try to apologize, but the shop wasn't open that early, and I had to leave for home, so the poor man will never know that someone there wanted to support him. I also feel ashamed that I didn't call Paul out more strongly. I think he probably thinks I only meant that I was embarrassed that the shopkeeper heard, not that I was mortified to be friends with someone who is, apparently, a racist. I'm angry at myself because if it had been anyone but Paul I would already have cut them out of my life, telling them with no holds bared why I was friend-dumping them. I'm being weak because I feel like Paul is the only close relationship I have left in my life besides my husband. I'm afraid of being alone and friendless, and that is keeping me from doing the right thing. I'm a coward, basically, and that sucks.

Meta Filter, I'm so broken-hearted over this. I haven't really spoken to Paul since, I've been avoiding him, trying to figure out what to do. I have my own ideas of what needs to be said and done, but I'd like to hear your opinions. What should I do now, do you think?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
You should accept that you and Paul can no longer be close in the way you once were. I would divert some of the emotional energy you're putting into this situation into making a new friend, ideally a new local friend.
posted by little mouth at 12:04 PM on January 3, 2018 [56 favorites]

You are already friendless, when it comes to Paul. He is not the friend you thought he was because he is no longer the man you knew.

Is this really something you think you can move on from? I don't think so. I'm horrified for you, it's not just a shock it's a betrayal, but Paul is gone.

I think you should tell him that you can't in good conscience be a friend to someone who is a racist. I guess there is a faint hope that a drastic move like that might make him reevaluate the path he is on but I would not hold my breath: he either lost himself or was very good at hiding his basest self from you for all these years.

I'm so sorry, I really am. Let him go, he will not bring you security, comfort, or companionship any longer.
posted by lydhre at 12:05 PM on January 3, 2018 [29 favorites]

This is hard. I would concentrate on a few things

- Letting the shopkeeper know you are sorry and are wanting to do better (this can literally be an email or reaching out on social media). I think I might drop a note via facebook/email, make a donation to a useful cause.
- Educating yourself on how to deal with shit like this. SPLC has a great tutorial on bystander intervention and how to learn about what personal blocks you have that may be keeping you from being effective.
- Lastly, don't make it about you. I know this is difficult and I don't mean to point fingers, only to say that this is why dealing with intolerance is difficult, often the people we most care about (or can't avoid) are the ones who are propagating this nastiness. Decisions need to be made that are difficult.

I agree with the people above. Paul is gone. You can move your friendship to "somebody that I used to know" status and let him know why. Or you can have a talk with him and basically be like "No, never again" and give him a second chance. Spend the time that you're not hanging out with him working on forging new connections and maybe taking a tough look at "circumstances" and see if there's any wiggle room there. You have a heart. You care. Those things are important and cherished by others.
posted by jessamyn at 12:08 PM on January 3, 2018 [51 favorites]

I had a best friend of 20 years who turned into an asshole, so I friend-dumped that asshole. I didn't want to be friends with an asshole because I don't like or trust assholes. Your friend is now an asshole. Can you like or trust an asshole? I get that trauma can change people, but that doesn't mean you have to put up with asshole behavior, whatever the cause.

I would say 'Paul, I know you've been through a lot these last few years since your dad's passing, and that understandably changes a person. But I think you have changed for the worse. Your hateful behaviors [give examples here] have turned you into an asshole, and I am not friends with assholes. Unless you want to talk about how you can change, I will be taking my leave from this friendship. I wish you well' and THE END.

Seriously, this person is not your friend. He is an asshole. Go find a better, more compassionate friend.
posted by greta simone at 12:10 PM on January 3, 2018 [10 favorites]

You might be the only person he'll listen to, so if you are confident for your physical safety around him, please teach him.

You don't have to get it perfect in the moment. You don't have to do it in one conversation. But he loves you and your opinion matters to him, and your opinion could be literally the last thing that stops him from escalating to further violence against marginalized people.

You have influence. Please use your influence for good.

Those of you advocating unfriending.... whose job do you think it is to collect the racists?
The answer is, IT IS YOURS.
Please do not abdicate your social responsibility.
Passivity condones violence.

Please don't be passive white moderates.

It is not enough to be non-racist. We have a moral duty to be ANTI-racist.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:32 PM on January 3, 2018 [70 favorites]

Once an adult man starts to go down this path, they are basically gone. They are happily and willingly destroying their own humanity. Get clear of this guy or you will be complicit. Your friendship only reinforces his belief that his hateful beliefs are shared by his community. You can tell him this explicitly if you want, but I don't think you'll like what comes out of his mouth when you do. I personally would not do it face-to-face by myself.
posted by praemunire at 12:34 PM on January 3, 2018 [5 favorites]

I think it was somewhere on Metafilter in the last couple of years where I read a comment about how when people get older, when they start to lose their support systems, when they start to feel a little more tired, a little fuzzier in their thinking, a little more physically vulnerable, they start to demonstrate the fear that their vulnerability is causing them by acting out in anti-social ways, by becoming more aggressive and more politically conservative (I seem to remember the comment was related to a discussion about devotees of Fox News).

I was friend-dumped once (though not for being racist). The worst part of the entire experience was that my friend never honored our friendship by talking with me about what her feelings were, nor by asking for my side of the story. If she'd taken the time to have an honest conversation with me, the loss of the friendship still would have hurt but I would have respected her decision. But with the way it happened, for her to just decide that I was an asshole and to just completely stop speaking to me, to not even acknowledge that I had a point of view about the situation or that maybe I was going through something really hard and that I didn't have a good coping mechanism worked out; I felt that our whole friendship had been a lie, that we had never been friends at all.

If you truly feel that Paul has a been a friend, then you owe it to him to check in with him about the changes you've seen in him since this loss he suffered a couple of years ago. It sounds like he is really hurting. It sounds like he needs someone who knows him to check him on his behavior. To step in and say " WTF? This isn't like you, this isn't the Paul I know. You know this isn't okay. You can't walk through the rest of your life as a bitter, ignorant old man. What's really going on? How can I help you? "

If, in the end, you have to part ways, at least you will be able to do so knowing that you did what you could. The idea of having that conversation sounds harder, but trust me when I say that living with the regret of a broken friendship never leaves you. It's like a death, but worse, because you know that person still exists in the world and you will find yourself wondering how they are, and wishing you could reconnect.
posted by vignettist at 12:36 PM on January 3, 2018 [73 favorites]

If you decide to confront him before, and maybe instead of, cutting ties, the conversation may include things like:

"I thought you were better than this. I thought you knew the truth, that you hadn't fallen for paranoid conspiracy theories based on prejudice and stereotypes. I thought my friend wouldn't participate in casual, deliberate cruelty."

"I can't be around someone who's so hateful. Can't spend time with someone who sees how awful the world is, how vile some people can be to each other, and decides to make it worse."

"Setting aside the bleeding-heart liberal stuff - I have to wonder: If I were part of the groups you mocked, would you hate me too? If I converted to Islam, would I be evil in your eyes?"

"I miss my friend. I thought my friend was someone I could trust, someone who shared my basic values - that despite our political differences, we agreed that all people deserve equal rights and equal dignity. I can't be friends with someone who thinks some people deserve mockery and hatred because of who they are."

"And before you start in with 'how can you be against intolerance if you're refusing to tolerate me,' I want to say that tolerance isn't a moral value. It's an agreement we make to have a peaceful and cooperative society. It looks like you want someone to look down on more than you want to be part of a thriving community. And I'm sorry, but I can't be part of that."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:00 PM on January 3, 2018 [24 favorites]

I would write Paul a letter or email explaining in careful detail both how important he is to me and how unacceptable his current behavior is. I would organize my letter to lead with the love I have for him and detailing how important he is to me, like you did here, and then I would talk in detail about the values that are central to me that he has departed from. I would point out that the changes have emerged since the death of his father, tell him that I want the friendship to continue, but that I can't continue to be close to the person he's becoming. I'd close by asking him to change course. If his father or anyone else he admires would disapprove of his current behavior, I'd say that, too.

This blows; I'm sorry it's like that.
posted by spindrifter at 1:07 PM on January 3, 2018 [12 favorites]

First of all, grieve. Second forgive yourself for not blowing up an already high stress moment. In the MUCH grander scheme of things, you did fine in that moment. You had no idea that was coming, you adopted the body language of someone under assault because you were being attacked, too. You did fine. The shop keeper deals with the public, believe me, they're ok.

Now. About Paul.

I'm happy to go into deeper discussions about what's happened to him. The science behind it is pretty simple, tho: The trauma of losing a parent effected his cognitive functioning, simultaneously, there is a lot of violent programming in our culture that can be appealing to people in that physical/mental state. Shake the ingredients together, out pops a militant racist.

I don't really know if you can change Paul because his environment and conditioning filter your words to him.

I suggest you change your will, grieve in every way that makes sense to you, and take up some sort of somatic meditation practice or hobby. Engage in self-care. Volunteer somewhere or join a hiking group - do anything that gets you moving and connects you to like-minded people. Expand your network. Keep your practice going, rely on it during the tough days or weeks ahead.

I know on the surface this might seem dismissive, but what I am advising can be hard to keep up with, but you must do it! You must move in the world and connect with people who are safe to share friendship and love with. I'm sorry about your friend and hope he finds his way back to his humanity, unfortunately, you can't do it for him. That's something he needs to come around to on his own. Likewise, you can tell him he was offensive and that his views are abhorrent, but let me hip you to something: Paul knows what he said was fucking awful and a relationship killer, and he did it anyway.

Put your energy towards yourself and positive people and things.
posted by jbenben at 1:16 PM on January 3, 2018 [10 favorites]

I like spindrifter's idea to write a letter, but Paul has firearms. Did he go on anti-depressants after his dad died? Firearms + pharmaceuticals seems to be proving a bad combo in our society right now. Paul might be very dangerous, I mean, he's got lots of guns so he IS definitely dangerous. Orient yourself to what's evident, he has guns and he's aggressive and anti-social. I wouldn't want to anger the guy or cause him to obsess upon me, even with the distance. It's not worth the risk... I'd say you know your friend better than I do, but you don't know who he is anymore...

Sit with the fact that you don't know who he is anymore before deciding to reach out to him or not before you move on from him.
posted by jbenben at 1:30 PM on January 3, 2018 [11 favorites]

OP, I forgot to mention: make sure your husband knows in advance if you decide to confront Paul or break it off with him. You may well need the backup.

Passivity condones violence.

Ending a close friendship of many years is anything but passive.

If OP is anything other than a straight Christian white male U.S. citizen (I'm inferring that OP is a woman, but I could be wrong), at this point, Paul has already absorbed the notion that OP's opinions are worth less than his, that OP is fundamentally worth less than he is. Anything OP says will be discounted accordingly. The toxicity and self-reinforcing nature of this worldview really can't be overstated.

whose job do you think it is to collect the racists

As if it were just a matter of "collecting" them... I never see people advocating for this point of view bringing up their own stories of how they personally converted adult men throwing around "sand ******" or whatever in public into NAACP members. This is not your mildly racist grandma who doesn't understand the problem with "all lives matter." This is a guy who straight-up used a slur in front of a minority in public, where OP could hear.
posted by praemunire at 1:34 PM on January 3, 2018 [22 favorites]

I recommend telling Paul that racism hurts people, and you can only stay friends with him if he stops doing things that hurt people.

I think the shopkeeper will appreciate it if you stop by when the store is open, apologize for Paul's behavior, and tell him that you talked to Paul about it cuz you don't want him to hear more racist comments. I understand that you were shocked in the moment and it was hard to react. You have room for improvement, but be gentle with yourself about it.

Maybe if someone you know says something discriminatory in the future, you can say something like, "That's not cool. I'm gonna leave for now. We can hang out another time if you agree to stop making (racist/sexist/etc) comments."
posted by Eevee at 1:56 PM on January 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

You're not being a coward. I think the social science generally agrees that isolating people from friendships and from people who disagree with them does not encourage them to change their attitudes for the better.

In my opinion, the cowardly move is letting your own self-concept or your own feeling of guilt about being associated with him keep you from doing the hard work of keeping him within a reasonable, loving network of people who disagree with his abhorrent views.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 2:27 PM on January 3, 2018 [11 favorites]

(For the record I'm not a white straight guy and I think white people need to do way more work at being tolerant of shittier white people instead of humiliating and isolating them [even if they do deserve it])
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 2:29 PM on January 3, 2018 [13 favorites]

Not regarding your bigoted ex-friend, but regarding the innocent shop-keeper: you could find the address of the shop online, write a handwritten apology note, and maybe include a copy of this thread printed out.
posted by blueberry at 2:41 PM on January 3, 2018 [9 favorites]

Jesus. Not everyone is a straight white person. Lots of people LIVE this kind of abuse every day and stand up to people who fucking despise them, at their own peril, on the regular.

Of course, but it doesn't change that kind of person's mind about the despising. Nor would one expect it to. That doesn't change just because the person is a bystander and shares some of the majority traits. A guy as far along as Paul might respond to another straight white guy with certain markers of cultural credibility. It's very unlikely he'll listen to anyone else.
posted by praemunire at 3:38 PM on January 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

Write the shop keeper a note and apologize. Not email, not Facebook. A note is more personal, just keep it brief. He doesn't need to know all the background.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:00 PM on January 3, 2018 [7 favorites]

I have a friend who seems to take calling people stereotypes ("hippy tree hugger") to mean "everything else is legit" and establish the friendship as an alliance of opposites. IME it's not a great foundation for a friendship. You can say something, laying it out plain like you have here, particularly about his changes directly following his dad's death, but there's no guarantees it'll have any effect. At least you'll know you tried to save the friendship.

I think you handled the vacation-store stuff as well as you could have in the moment.
posted by rhizome at 4:35 PM on January 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Once an adult man starts to go down this path, they are basically gone.

Not true. Please read The Best of Enemies - Race and Redemption in the New South, which is an account of a true story which is the opposite of this.

The book moves toward a few points, one of which is that a sense of family was a crucial factor, and that friendship was also crucial. It's a great account and has been made into a play.

I think it's important for you to protect yourself. Be careful with this person.

However, I take _huge_ issue with the idea that somehow "punishing" people by depriving them of a relationship with one is a mandatory first step whenever someone is going down a wrong path.
posted by amtho at 7:22 PM on January 3, 2018 [6 favorites]

I'm on the side of pseudostrabismus and Rock 'em Sock 'em. I think you have a moral duty to talk to this guy and that isolating him will not make him friendlier to Muslims (or other "hippy tree huggers"). He may not listen, he may discount what you say because you're a woman, but it's really important to try.
posted by AFABulous at 7:25 PM on January 3, 2018 [7 favorites]

Why is it her job to do the Intense Emotional Labor on this hate-filled man?

Why is it her job to risk her life and safety to try and change the diseased mind of this guy who owns “lot of guns”. What, because she was once friends with him?

Fixing this loser and putting herself in harms way is not her responsibility.
posted by blueberry at 12:03 AM on January 4, 2018 [27 favorites]

Being kind to someone hate-filled isn't always anyone in particular's responsibility, but that doesn't mean it's bad to do it, if you can.
posted by value of information at 12:09 AM on January 4, 2018 [8 favorites]

Go to the store, buy something, and apologize, but don’t go into a white guilt spiral and make the store owner do a ton of emotional labor accepting your apology. Cut Paul out of any kind of legal position he has for you ASAP. Posters and commenters, please do not discount the domestic violence risk in any kind of “come collect your fellow white people” plan. I have had that moment of realizing I was afraid of male friends who made that shift to the hard right. It’s not something to take lightly. I don’t like that Paul pulled that social dominance display of humiliating and frightening you at the store; he knew exactly how much his racist attack on the workers there would upset a “tree hugger” and did it on purpose; I don’t think you are a coward for being afraid of him in that moment. Paul doesn’t have a partner himself; maybe he thinks of you as a sister the way you see him as a brother, but maybe not. I don’t think this is a simple case of white fragility and white people not wanting to have verbal confrontations. If you think it’s safe to have a come to jesus with Paul, by all means try, but he has already started abusing you in public and you are the best judge of how much you think he’s capable of escalating.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 12:18 AM on January 4, 2018 [33 favorites]

Moonlight on vermont wrote everything I came to this thread 10x today to write, but just could not articulate as succinctly. I very much picked up that Paul was primarily being abusive towards you, OP. I thought you were doing that classic thing where you were empathizing with the shopkeeper as a way of avoiding the primary aggression that was directed at you.

No one amasses a small arsenal because they are mentally stable. That's next level danger. Act accordingly.
posted by jbenben at 12:31 AM on January 4, 2018 [10 favorites]

I know I'm in the minority here but if you can bear it, don't cut off contact with Paul. I'm not white and have been on the receiving end of bigoted race-related remarks but I don't believe in this black-and-white view that has become increasingly popular in which you are either a) a good person or b) a racist bad person. He's exhibiting some unkind, anti-social behavior and I think isolation could make ingrain those behaviors further. I think having more different viewpoints in his life, especially more open-minded discussion (more like 'why do you think this way' rather than 'you are being a bad person') would be helpful imo.
posted by bluelight at 5:52 AM on January 4, 2018 [9 favorites]

Suggesting this woman put herself in danger with an unstable man with guns, is wildly irresponsible advice. Yes, people who are in a position to help change minds can do important work in doing so. But based on these facts? That is absurd, oblivious, tone-deaf advice to give to this woman in these circumstances.

Please consider your safety, report him to the authorities if he makes anything approaching a threat (hate speech is pretty far down that road) so it is on record, apologize to the store owner, and do whatever feels right for your safety. You could easily become a target to this man, and de-escalation with him seems like the better move.

Maybe take action in other ways to combat racism: join an action group of some sort, work on a political campaign for an anti-racist political candidate, etc. There are ways to contribute to this necessary work that don't involve engaging with a hate-filled, erratic man with guns.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 6:21 AM on January 4, 2018 [17 favorites]

If my husband dies before I do, Paul is named as the executor of my will.
Take steps to change that, even if it means that there is no back up executor. If you have enough in assets that it matters, designate a charity organization that should get everything.
posted by soelo at 7:31 AM on January 4, 2018 [12 favorites]

hi, if you trust Paul to honor you and cherish you as his friend (which it sounds like you do) there are practiced, non-violent trainings and methods of talking to him about his oppressive, white supremacist beliefs that you may find useful

I will note that one of the things anti-racism pointedly asks for is engagement, whether it be in person or via another medium, of white people with their white friends/family because dumping and running is a self-preservation tactic that the privileged rely on due to their inexperience with talking about race-related or other oppressive issues. this, in effect, removes any kind of accountability their racist friend/family/partner has - and that kind of close connection is often the only thing that can change someone's mind. one thing we talk about in anti-racist activism are the invisible ways white supremacy is normalized - refusing to have tough conversations with the people you care about and who care about you being one of them

if feasible, I'd suggest looking up anti-racist groups in your area and asking them if there are any trainings available for things like non-violent communication and anti-oppression. additionally, they may be able to point you to resources more directly related to your area. you'd be surprised at how many people there are actively engaging with this issue right now in the ways that you need them to - the national chapter of SURJ, for example, recently had a 'Thanksgiving Hotline' where you could text for prompts to respond to your racist family members with should they make a terrible comment

otherwise, broadly, here are some links about people's own experiences talking about racism:

Your Uncle Said What? How to Talk About Social Justice With Your Family During the Holidays

How To Talk To Your White Best Friend About Racism

How To Talk Race With Your Family: Ask Code Switch

Talking Racism with a Racist Relative in 4 Easy…(um NO) IMPORTANT Steps

additionally, the website Race Equity Tools has an excellent collection of in-depth guides for engaging with anti-racism work and practice. things that may be of use for you in this specific instance would be their section on Individual Transformations, Dialogue and Deliberation, and Communicating for Racial Justice. the other sections are also great if, should you want an alternative to directly engaging with your friend, to make up for that fact by organizing for anti-racism in a responsible, accountable, and ethical way
posted by runt at 7:39 AM on January 4, 2018 [22 favorites]

Definitely change your will. You can leave him as an executor if you feel ok with that (based on whether you stay friends or not), but be sure your will specifies beneficiaries so that your money doesn't end up funding white nationalist groups.

I think you know your relationship with him better than we do, and you know his potential capacity for violence. Being encouraged by the current political climate to be a more vocal racist is one thing, actual aggression with firearms is another. If you feel comfortable enough to discuss how much this incident has stayed with you since it happened, then maybe you can try some of the methods listed above. But if you feel at all suspicious that he might be turning violent in addition to his new anti-social behavior, this internet stranger gives you permission to do the slow fade. You can make new friends, no matter your age or life circumstances. They might never end up as special as Paul was, but at least you can choose friends who aren't going to be scary or terrible and that might make up for a lot.

Seriously, even if you stay friends with Paul, make additional friends. You can see that keeping yourself this tightly limited has serious drawbacks.
posted by clone boulevard at 12:58 PM on January 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Only you can judge your safety in this situation (and even then, you may judge incorrectly, since you're not a mind-reader, but you have more information than any of us do).

If you feel safe, I would suggest reaching out to your friend once, and letting him know how you feel. Use the non-violent communication tactic of speaking in "I" sentences, let him know how much it pains you to see him acting this way, focus on specific actions/behaviors rather character traits (ie, "I was really horrified by your behavior towards the business owner" rather than "you've become a racist"). Tell him you value the friendship (if you still do) but that you can't keep hanging out with him if he continues to act like this.

Do not expect him to take it well. No matter how gently you say this, how much emotional labor you do, he will probably get defensive, and may say mean things to you. I'd do this in public or by email or with someone else like your husband around.

But. Even if he doesn't initially react positively, your words may take root in his mind, and he may begin to reflect on them. It may embarrass him enough to behave better with people of color - it is important for racists to know that they will be judged for acting in racist ways. You will probably still lose your friend, but you might still have an impact.

Good luck.
posted by lunasol at 1:22 PM on January 4, 2018

Why is it her job to do the Intense Emotional Labor on this hate-filled man?

Emotional labor is the glue that holds a society/culture together. It really sucks that emotional labor falls unequally on women/POCs but it doesn't mean that it's not important. She's friends with him, and all the research shows that interventions like this, while not always successful, are much more likely to be successful when they come from a friend or loved one.
posted by lunasol at 1:24 PM on January 4, 2018 [10 favorites]

There's a lot going on in your situation, but speaking only to one aspect: growing apart is very common. People are not static and my relationships with close friends have waxed and waned and sometimes ended with the passing of time

I encourage you to seek out new social connections. It's not easy, but it's very worthwhile.
posted by latkes at 9:04 PM on January 4, 2018

Put your safety first. There are many other ways you can support anti-racism that do not include putting your safety in danger. Signed, minority woman.
posted by thesockpuppet at 9:24 PM on January 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

For everyone bringing the OP's safety into question, let's be reminded that in the original question it was stated that OP and Paul do not live in the same area. And that this incident happened while on vacation, a few weeks ago. OP and Paul are not in close physical proximity at this time. Any contact between OP and Paul in the near future is not likely to happen in person at this point. So for the time being, OP is physically safe.

That all being said, OP, I agree that all safety precautions should be taken. Paul is unpredictable right now. Of course you don't want to be with Paul in person right now. Of course you wouldn't want to travel with him right now. No, you don't have to have any conversation with him if it makes you feel unsafe (that includes emotionally).

But the gist of your Ask wasn't so much about safety as it was about guilt over your own actions or non-actions, and confusion about what was the right thing to do. I can see that you are confused about why you didn't safe to contradict Paul in the moment in either of the stores, but the fact remains that you did not feel safe in that moment, and you honored your feelings. That's an important thing to remember.

If you've read The Gift of Fear, remember some of the examples in the book where the author was talking with some of the victims he interviewed about their experiences; they all start out by saying "I don't know why I felt scared..." but as they verbalize and examine their experiences they are able to pick out details that they subconsciously picked up on in the moment. So give yourself a mental hug that you were able to do that too and that you kept yourself safe.

As for the shop keepers; I agree that a handwritten note apologizing for Paul's atrocious behavior and that you regret that you did not feel able to say something in the moment. I don't think there's anything else you can do that won't sound like lip-service to them; perhaps with a little time you'll be able to find a way to make amends that is also meaningful to you.
posted by vignettist at 10:49 PM on January 4, 2018

It really sucks that emotional labor falls unequally on women/POCs but it doesn't mean that it's not important.

as someone who has personally been on the receiving end of overtly racist put-downs through the course of their life, I can guarantee you that a significant amount of emotional labor has already been done by the shopkeeper, something indicated by their reaction to the friend's comments

whatever the route the original poster decides to take, there is already a burden that has been needlessly created of which the original poster is aware. it is, in my view, immoral to be aware that a burden is passed, that reparations are necessary, and then to not only do nothing about it but also to selfishly prioritize your own needs and desires, esp when those needs and desires involve the exchange of capital such as the execution of a will. we do not live in a world where white people prioritizing the tranquility of their finances while ignoring and furthering systemic oppression is without obvious precedence - our country was founded on the mandate of white wealth serving itself and, in the hopes of not perpetuating the ethos of white supremacy laid down by the Founding Fathers, it would be nice to see individual instances, such as this one, at least make a meager, intentional attempt at reckoning and accountability
posted by runt at 12:23 PM on January 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

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