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How to Handle Racial Issues With Family Members


Race is a thorny enough issue as it is. The thought of dragging family members into a discussion about race is enough to make some people want to head for the hills. In a country that remains racially divided, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the topic. Sooner or later you must talk to your child about race or confront the relative whose racist attitudes make you want to scream. If you’re in an interracial romance you may have to talk to disapproving family members about your relationship. Being in an interracial marriage may also require you to speak with your partner about which cultural traditions the two of will observe, blend together or ignore during family-centered occasions such as the holidays.

Dealing With Racist Family Members

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Is visiting family a drag because of that one relative who insists on telling racist jokes, repeating racial stereotypes or even using racial slurs? It’s unnecessary to listen to such tripe whenever you make a trip home. Let you family members know you object to their racist attitudes and would prefer them not to make racist remarks in your presence. Set limits with your relatives. Let them know you won’t be coming around as often if they insist on spewing racism. If you have a biracial child or are in an interracial relationship, you may have to skip visiting home entirely if your family member refuses to respect your wishes.

Disapproval of an Interracial Relationship

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The U.S. Supreme Court legalized interracial marriage in the 1960s, but resistance to such relationships still exists several decades later. It’s not uncommon for passersby on the street to gawk at mixed couples or for the loved ones of those involved in interracial romances to express concern or outright oppose their involvement in the relationship. Stand firm with your loved ones by setting boundaries. Let them know you’re an adult capable of making your own decisions and give them some ground rules about how you expect them to treat your partner. Set consequences to dissuade them from disrespecting your partner or treating your partner poorly. If your relationship is important to you, don’t risk it by allowing meddling family members to stir up trouble because of race.

Multicultural Holiday Celebrations

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Which foods will you serve during the holiday season? What movies will your family watch? Will religion play a role in how you celebrate? The answers to these questions may be more complicated if you’re involved in an interracial marriage. If you and your mate grew up observing different cultural traditions during the holidays, the two of you may have different ideas about how to celebrate. With compromise interracial couples can blend their customs together during the holidays, create new customs or ignore the customs with which they grew up. Learn how the cultural traditions the two of you share can be an asset to your family rather than a source of division. Together you can celebrate the holiday season in ways your children will remember fondly.

Talking to Children About Race

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You may think your child is too young to understand the concept of race, but studies show that children begin to notice racial differences among people as early as preschool. Don’t be afraid to talk race with your children. If they’re pointing out that their classmates have different skin colors, hair textures, etc., they’re ready to hear about the construct of race. Answer any questions they have to the best of your ability. Do research to answer any questions you don’t feel capable of answering. Buy multicultural books to further help your children understand racial issues or take your children to a cultural museum to help them learn about people from all over the world.
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