That's Racist: If All Else Fails, Give Grandma the Finger

This is the first segment of a several-part series I'm working on titled That's Racist: How to Respond to Prejudice Without Loosing Your Cool. We've all experienced an uncomfortable situation when a family member, friend, acquaintance, coworker, or schoolmate says something racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, or just plain offensive. And we've all had to make the decision to pursue the issue or simply drop it. It's a shitty position to be in for sure, and hopefully the next time it happens to you you're able to fight the good fight without popping a vein. 

It's important to remember that at the root of prejudice is ignorance, not pure wickedness. All the worst -isms you can think of are merely the knee-jerk response and defense mechanism of a person who is confused and wishes to assume a false sense of superiority. But prejudice is also physically, emotionally, and socially harmful to all people, and needs to be addressed. Pointing out the flaws in other people's thought processes can be enlightening and beneficial to everyone, but not all people are receptive to criticism. You need to choose your approach and words wisely in order to avoid coming across as a critical asshole, so I've divided this series according to the difference groups of people you know. Today we'll look at those who hit closest to home: family.

Your family is made up of people that you don’t necessarily have to be around and enjoy the company of all the time, but sometimes, maybe even for just a short amount of time (if you’re lucky), you do. And that can really suck if a family member (or all of them) harbors prejudiced views and feels the need to share them. Nothing can ruin the mood like grandma throwing around a racist term or Uncle Don ranting about “queers” and “faggots” at a family gathering. Trust me, we’ve all been there at some point, and it can be one of the most infuriating and frustrating things to have to sit through. You don’t want to ignore that kind of intolerance while passive-aggressively shoveling your mashed potatoes, but you also don’t want to ignite an all-out family feud at the dinner table. So how does one stand up for her beliefs while respecting her elders and her kin? 

Say something, but choose your words wisely. Instead of saying, “That’s racist, grandma!,” try to tell her that not everyone would agree with her views, and neither do you. Tell her that that sort of language is offensive, and ask her to try not to say it around you or other people in the future. If you’re greeted with hostility, confusion, or apologist language, assert yourself and then simply try to change the subject. Seriously. I know it’s hard, but sometimes the most you can do with family members is just try to avoid talking about certain things (ie most things) with them. It sucks, and it’s boring, but if it gets you through Passover or a 4th of July BBQ, just take one for the team and talk about your job or a funny cat video you saw online. You can do no wrong with cat videos (unless you decide to read the YouTube comments, which never fail to be as offensive and asinine as possible). 

Ultimately, remember that friends are family that you choose. Some people are just stubborn, especially people who feel that they have superiority over you due to age, or due to the fact that they raised you. That’s why family time can really suck sometimes. Although they may not have an ounce of tolerance, you kind of have to tolerate them, but don’t feel bad for ranting about the fiasco with a friend or significant other, or giving your family the finger behind their backs. Honestly, just flip them off when they aren’t looking. It feels really good.

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