What to do when someone you care about shows his thoughts.

Q: I would love to get your opinion on the following…My husband and I are a happy interracial couple (I’m black, he’s white) living in the South. Race is not an issue for us and this is how we hope to raise our kids. We’ve developed a friendship with a white couple who have been very good friends over many years and are in fact our children’s godparents. They were raised in the South by very traditional white families, and even though they seem to be very progressive, they prove that you can’t escape your past. Last year, the man was animatedly recalling a story and used the n-word to describe a group of people in his story. My husband and I were shocked and really didn’t know how to react. He went on with his story as if it didn’t happen, following which, we left. Discussing it in the car, my husband and I were more disappointed in him than angry. We briefly discussed whether or not we should talk to him about it, but decided against it. He hasn’t done it since, but it’s hard to forget. Any thoughts?

A: Thanks for your question. It’s a tough one, but I will take a shot. My take on this is that you should always say something when something like this happens. It could be something simple like: Really? That’s the way you describe this group of people? It may not be the thing you want to say or thought you’d say, but you have to let the person know that you don’t appreciate that kind of language and that he shouldn’t feel comfortable using it in front of you.

I was on a plane that was experiencing turbulence when the woman sitting beside me made a comment about the pilot’s race. I, too, was flustered and didn’t know what to say. I managed to get something out of my mouth that did not condemn her speech but hopefully let her know I didn’t appreciate it.

Were your children there? I would not want to explain how my child’s Godfather used a racial epithet to describe Mommy’s people. (If he can’t see how his word may be hurtful to a group, he may see how it is hurtful to his Godchild.) The moment may have passed, and it may not have the same effect if you talk about it now. But if it ever happens again or if he’s joking about this story or some other opportunity presents itself, I’d take him aside and tell him. Keep it sweet, to the point and make sure your talk lacks emotion. If you stay cool, maybe he will follow suit. I wouldn’t do it in front of other people, if you can help it, because he’s likely to be embarrassed and may respond in anger.

Weigh in, folks. What would you do?

4 thoughts to “From The Inbox

  • Laura M.

    I started to reply and it turned into a blog post. 🙂

    Basically, come up with a short phrase of disapproval that is effortless to say when this happens again and bring race up as just another topic of conversation so that it can be discussed at a time other than the super loaded moment of when some one slurs out The N Word.

    • Honeysmoke

      Well said/written. I wanted to leave a comment, but they were closed.

  • Blanc2

    You have to say something. IMO it’s best to say it on the spot, but if you’re too shocked or the moment passes, bring it up in private, cordially but directly.

  • Nadia

    I would say something at the time. No shouting or getting angry but just letting the person know that it’s not acceptable to speak like that. Maybe even ask them, why they think language like that is acceptable.

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