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So you’ve got a racist family member – now what?

June 22, 2024 admin No Comments

So you’ve got a racist family member – now what?

If you have a racist family member in your life, no matter how close you are to them, it can hurt when they show their true harmful colours.

Maybe they’ve had their mind warped by social media and certain troubling news outlets, or maybe growing up and away from their influence has helped the scales fall from your own eyes, and now you finally see them as they really are.

Maybe you’re of mixed heritage and have started to realise that you’re experiencing microaggressions or even overt racism from people on one side of your family tree.

No matter how or why this has come about, it can be really hard to know what to do with bigoted family.

you might want to try explaining how their bigotry affects you and makes you feel.

One option is trying to help them change for the better, but that can take a toll and there’s always the chance it will not work.

Counselling Directory member Bolanle Shonubi tells that you might want to try explaining how their bigotry affects you and makes you feel.

She adds: ‘Racism is learned – both overtly in the family, schools, workplaces, and other organisations. It is indoctrinated and in some cases, has arisen from a lack of understanding; misunderstanding which morphs into fear of and anger towards “the other”.

‘The racist or bigoted person most likely is also in some sort of pain, which is expressed in their bigoted racist views.

‘With the bigoted family member, having compassion, empathy and trying to understand the root of their bigotry can be tackled by talking. Educating this family member as to how they are racist can be helpful, as they may not even realise their views or attitudes are racist.’

Another option is setting boundaries with problematic family members – like limiting contact for example, or outlining out-of-bounds topics for the dinner table – but this can be much easier said than done.

‘It can be extremely difficult dealing with family members who have bigoted views,’ says Bolanle, ‘especially if they are closely bonded and have a good relationship.

‘Setting boundaries can prove difficult and is not black and white (no pun intended) – especially setting emotional and internal boundaries by which I mean; how do you construct an emotional boundary that will help protect you from the pain of the comments and views expressed.

Concrete boundaries can be put in place by explaining to a bigoted family member that you will not accept being part of conversations in which or in the vicinity when views are expressed, or attitudes displayed.

‘Calling them out on their racist views and behaviours, making them aware that the views that they hold and express are racist and unacceptable would, I’d say, be the first steps to setting up boundaries. Continue to do this as often as the family member expresses them.’

She also points out that undergoing therapy could help them work through their issues.

While it might be pretty difficult to get them to accept that their problem is serious enough for professional intervention, if they’re serious about having a healthy relationship with you, they may be willing to accept family therapy sessions.

If you’re at the end of your tether and/or their views are particular foul, initiating a more permanent boundary may be the healthiest option.

That’s a choice only you can make, weighing up all that you’d stand to lose and gain in the exchange.

As Bolanle points out, you’d put yourself in a position to lose all that they are to you along with their racist views.

To some, this may not feel like a hard decision at all, but to others, it could mean sacrificing a relationship with someone they have held very dear.

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