The Elder Wisdom Circle always makes interesting reading. Here is a taste…
FAMILY: Dad makes fun of my boyfriend around me
My main problem is an issue I’m having with my dad. He dislikes my boyfriend to the highest level just because of his skin color which is black. My father tends to make fun of him any chance he gets around me. Like for example I say “the most amazing thing happened today“ then he responds “you… broke up with your nasty monkey boyfriend“ and even worse things than that. I mean it has gotten to the point where I just get really mad and not talk to him. I have tried telling him to stop but he keeps going. Any advice on how to have my dad stop is greatly appreciated.
I’m sorry to hear that your dad is verbalizing his prejudices about your boyfriend. The racist attitudes of family members are probably the most difficult to confront, especially when one is still a dependent young person in the home. As soon as I read your letter, I went online to search for an organization which provides excellent practical guidelines for how to speak up in defense of someone who is being attacked verbally. If you go to this web site, you will find a lot of interesting information about prejudice, bias, racism and how to respond in everyday situations. http://www.tolerance.org/publication/speak/among-family
I have copied here a few of the tidbits which seemed particularly applicable in your case. You can pick one or two and re-word them so that they sound like you. I recommend practicing to achieve a tone of voice that will not come across as confrontational or disrespectful of your father, which will not accomplish anything but irritate him. Your father needs to understand that his attitude is causing you to distance yourself from him, and you don’t want that to happen. I hope this helps! Once will probably not be enough to break the established pattern.
Describe what is happening. Define the offense, and describe the pattern of behavior. “Every time I come over, you tell ‘jokes’ I find offensive. While some people might laugh along with you, I don’t. I’ve asked you not to tell them, but you keep doing it anyway.”
Describe how you are feeling. “I love you so much, and I know you love me, too. I wonder why you choose to keep hurting me with your comments and ‘jokes.'”
Appeal to family ties. “Your ‘jokes’ are putting unnecessary distance between us; I worry they’ll end up doing irreparable harm. I want to make sure those ‘jokes’ don’t damage our relationship.”
State values, set limits. “You know that respect and tolerance are important values in my life, and, while I understand that you have a right to say what you want, I’m asking you to show a little more respect for me by not telling these ‘jokes’ when I’m around.”
Ask for a response. “I don’t want this rift to get worse, and I want us to have a good relationship. What should we do?”
Broaden the discussion. Consider including sympathetic family members — and not-so-sympathetic family members — in the discussion so everyone can work to help the family find common ground.
Put it in writing. If spoken words and actions don’t have an effect, consider writing a note, letter or email. Often, people “hear” things more clearly that way.
Make it a habit to stop by THERE every now and then.. You will be glad you did.
(H/T Kathy Broggy)