Monday, April 3, 2017

On Having a Racist in the Family

I love my family, I really do, but some of the things I learn about them just floor me. I think I've led a fairly sheltered life when it comes to racism. I wasn't taught to be racist. I didn't grow up thinking differently of other races and cultures. I don't surround myself with racists.


So I find it both shocking and disturbing to hear someone I love tell me that her mother purposely moved them to an all-white area so they wouldn't be exposed to black people. I find it absolutely appalling that this same mother lets her teenage son draw swastikas and verbalize hate as if she's happy about it. This same woman touts her Christian values and absolutely hates me because I am a heretic. Thank God she's a relative of an in-law and I don't have to group this vile creature into my 'family.' I would flip my lid if I had to.

This is honestly the first time I've ever been exposed to that level of hate. I knew it was out there. I've seen it on TV. But it's quite another thing to know that you're this close to someone who is openly racist. Even my idiotic ex didn't let the public know what kind of snake he was. I'm actually quite happy that they all live on the opposite side of the country from me and really that is far too close.

My family member has been working on herself to let go of this mindset. It has not been easy for her. She's been in the family now for 3 years and I knew in the beginning something was wrong by the way she reacted to my husband. I couldn't put my finger on it as she has other issues stemming from her childhood as well but now I know. She's finally started to reveal to me why she previously behaved the way that she did. Now I can share some of this with you all and hopefully you never need it but if you do, maybe it will help in some way.

This family member is my niece by marriage, her name is Julie. Julie is a strong woman with a somewhat feminist attitude. She comes from a large family with 5 siblings. When I first met her she was a giggly teenager ready to head off to college and start her life. She made a cross-country move away from her family which I know is hard to do at such a young age. I felt a sort of bond with her over this.

Fast forward to 2012 when my husband came to the US. They didn't hit it off to say the least. She barely spoke to him and when she did it was short and to the point. Initially I assumed this was because he was an older man and a total stranger. They didn't see each other much so I didn't have any other clues to what it could be.

He wasn't the friendliest person with her either. There was too much tension between them. It didn't help at all that Rohit has a keen sense for the evil eye. He was dead sure she was passing judgment on him and he didn't like her at all. I felt trapped in the middle. He and I talked and I let him know that choosing sides was not an option as I have a very strong sense of family.

Later that year, she married my nephew and they came to visit. Rohit was experiencing some culture shock and our home was a tense environment. It was then I assumed her attitude was a result of the venting I had done from time to time, a reaction to his behavior, and partially on the unresolved issues she had of her own. I did my best to mend the situation and try to make peace to no avail. I just wound up frustrated and angry over the whole situation. I developed a sense of bitterness toward both of them.

I really felt like their disdain for each other was tearing apart my home. I still couldn't take sides. Both of them were misbehaving and I was being drug into the middle. I really didn't know what to do. I still didn't suspect racism as there were no comments made that were even slightly racist about him or about other people when he wasn't around. I just didn't see this coming. Of course, perhaps she kept that from me because she didn't know how I would react.

Over the last few months, things have truly begun to get better. Julie comes over to our house fairly often and her tone of  voice has softened, though she's still a bit 'hard' as Rohit would call it. She still has a strong personality but she's more friendly now. I believe that is why she's starting to open up about the racism she was taught while growing up. She now talks down about the choices her family made.

While things are not perfect yet, the tension level has dropped considerably. They are now nice to each other and can talk to each other without me feeling like I'm going to have to break up a fight. Here's hoping I can take them all to the family reunion successfully LOL.

How about you? Have you dealt with someone who was overtly racist? Tell me your story!

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