Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Racism? No Thanks. I'm Full

Dear Eve,

My family are hideous racists, and I'm in a biracial relationship with a black man and have been for a year. I want to introduce the love of my life to my fam, but don't want to hear their ugly talk.  Mother's Day is coming up and a big deal in my family, so I'm hoping if I bring him during a fun family day that everyone will have to be nice and they won't be able to go crazy.  I'm scared that even if they are nice they will never accept him and probably kick me out of their life.  If I don't tell my family soon my boyfriend says he wants to break up.  He doesn't want to be with someone who is ashamed of him.  What should I do?

Dear Shameless,

Tell your family the truth?  Apologize to your boyfriend?  Expect more from yourself?  All of these, please.  It's not like you just walked into the situation and Surprise! Surprise! Mama and daddy are racists, oh my!  From the first lash you ever batted at your mister to the last full-body handshake you two shared, they were ugly ol' racists, and you have been Scarlet O'Hara-ing that fact to avoid the pain of confrontation.  You can't put it off any longer if you want to keep your man, so let me walk you through your preferred scenario, just for practice.

Let's set the stage: nice family gathering, beautiful day, staggering plates of sausages being slung around (hhhmmm,  sausages), pony keg of Bud Light in the corner, various ranking cousins and other outliers and relatives lazing about and waxing poetic about lynchings and having arguments about which tar is best when one is feathering a man of color...Bucolic.  And here you come in, basically using your boyfriend as a human flack jacket.  What a douchey thing to do! Everyone knows that when pony kegs are involved all sorts of crazy shit can go down.  But there you are, willing to let this man, whom you profess to love with a passion, to be put in a position where he could be emotionally, verbally, or even physically abused.  Don't do it, lady. He doesn't deserve it and your racist family doesn't deserve the IED, either.  By popping up with your guy out of the blue, you're giving your family a big "fuck you" and "let's see how you jerks handle this."

Do it right.  Tell them in person about the man in your life, or perhaps on the phone if they're really awful and could possibly get violent.  Give them time to adjust to this new information.  When you've done that, and if they've reacted in a reasonable way, set up a nice  get-to-know-you date in a neutral place, like a restaurant.  Your boyfriend will appreciate you treating him so respectfully and, if there is good stuff floating around in the universe, so will the 'rents.  To keep this positive, I've got a true story for you:  A family I know was in your exact predicament.  The dad was cruel and completely cut his only daughter out of his life for many years.  Well, as that man got older his heart got softer and he could no longer tolerate a life without his girl even if she came with a little "baggage."  It turned out that the boyfriend and the dad had a lot in common and became best of friends and stayed close 'til the dad's early death.  People sometimes surprise themselves.

Of course, you could continue to be a coward, have a dishonest relationship with your family, very possibly lose your boyfriend and, along the way, lose your self-respect, too. We all have options. Just make sure that the next time you need a flack jacket buy it off the rack.  Wearing your loved ones is never in season.