My mother is racist. It’s hard for me to say this to you, because I fear you’ll judge me harshly. I fear you’ll take something I say and misconstrue it to mean I must be too. I’ve been stewing on making this admission since the events in Charlottesville over the weekend. Collectively, we are coming to realize as a society that even those of us who are not racist, but tolerate people who are must accept some of the blame for where we are. This realization is ringing through my head and I’m not exactly sure what to do about it.
To be clear, she is not the overt racist who might go out to protest the removal of a Confederate Memorial. She’s the one who judges those of color if they pull out in front of her in traffic, or aren’t quite fast enough at the checkout at the grocery store. She’d never have the guts to say anything directly to them. She’s too afraid. Instead, she silently curses them, stares them down and exudes a less than welcoming persona. I think this is worse. I’ve been on the receiving end of my mother’s passive-aggressive communication and it’s lethal.
I’ve been clear with her where I stand. I’ve made it known that I don’t want to hear any ridiculous racist statements in my presence, and certainly not in the presence of my children.
I remember her anger when she realized my daughter had a baby doll of her favorite Disney princess, Tiana. She asked me, “what will you do one day if she brings a black man home and says he’s her boyfriend?”. “Get to know him, and hope he’s a good man,” I replied. After I paused for her disgusted sigh, I added, “I’m more concerned about his political affiliation.”
Yet, I still engage with my mother and the handful of other people in my life I know would agree with her. I’m ashamed to admit this to you for fear of your harsh judgement.
What I can tell you is that I vowed years ago that it stops with me in my family. My children had no idea about race until they started elementary school. I remember my daughter describing her friend with pretty brown skin and curly hair. She didn’t know the word black. A year or two later when she realized that some people may think less of her friend for the color of her skin – she was stunned and confused. The concept was foreign to her. I still remember the sigh of relief I breathed the day I realized I just may have succeeded in ending racism in my family.
I know I’m not alone in having family who feels this way. The Southern Poverty Law Center has some >>fantastic advice on how to handle racist family members and friends. It’s worth a look. It’s important we all let people know where we stand and that their behavior and racist beliefs have no place in modern society. THEY should feel uncomfortable – and not the ones they’re judging.