Parents: How Do You Handle Your Ignorant Friends and Family?
words: mater mea
What do you do when your loved ones say hurtful things about your family? mater mea readers weigh in.
If there's one thing we've learned in this age of social media, it's this: Everyone has an opinion... and they're not afraid to let their opinion be known. These opinions can be especially treacherous when they're focused on how one decides to parent their children, and can feel even more menacing if there's a prejudice powering the comment.
Racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and narrow-minded comments have no place in the world, and especially not in the world you're creating for your child. But how do you correct such negative comments and critiques of your family without risking your relationship with the more ignorant members of your friends and family?
That's the question a mater mea reader recently posed to us:
"My husband is black. I am white. We have a toddler," the note begins. "I'd like to inquire about how families go about managing relationships with families and friends. Specifically, those in which an intersectional understanding is absent. We sent a letter after our toddler's 1st birthday to people who expressed an interest in being in our lives, explaining that we are deeply committed to using [an] intersectional lens in everything that we do as parents. It was very tame. But the responses and lack thereof have been very illuminating, to say the least.
"The interactions with our family/friends range from seemingly benign comments about the color of his underwear and how boys don't wear pink to [saying] 'mixed kids are the cutest' to petting our toddler to anti-black comments about my husband's hair to [saying] 'Even if he [our toddler] is gay, I'll love him regardless because hate the sin and not the sinner.'
"We have left many events, have turned down numerous invites to functions, and do not speak to almost all of mine and my husband's family. My husband is not as at ease as I am of being bereft of family and friends, but as a whole, we are not interested in subjecting our child to people who hold/express damaging ideals. But this means, effectively, that we will have no family/friends with [whom] to share our child with. Is anyone else dealing with this? I am hopeful that our family is not unique in our desire to want a like-minded community but have yet to come across anything in our area and/or online that fits our needs."
We posed the question to our audience, who have experienced this type of ignorance from loved ones, too—ignorance is colorblind. We hope you find comfort and support in their answers!
"...I remain steadfast about letting people know there's nothing wrong with her hair. Then I turn it back on them and ask 'Why do you think that? Why would you say that?' I make people face their own insecurities and remove them from my baby. Most of these comments are borne out of the person's own issues. I refuse to let them place that on her." —Bee
"My son comes first; I do not welcome negativity around him period. I don't care if you are friend or family, if that's your attitude, then we cannot hold company. I have had to cut a few family off for the mental well-being of my son. Was it and is it easy, NO, but was it worth it? HELL YEAH! It's all about meeting people with the same mindset. If you know one person who feels the same as you, more than likely they have friends who also feel the same way; build on that relationship and eventually, you will have a circle. Also go to events that support you and your beliefs." —Licia Ishangi
"Read Freedom To Choose: Is Skin Color Really An Issue?" —Mary Ellen Wray-Danuser
"My sister is chocolate complexion, while I am a caramel complexion. My mother told me that when I was born my aunt told her she was going to call us 'Salt and Pepper.' My mom said she quickly informed her that she better not. My mom refused to let my sister and I feel any differences in ourselves based on complexion. My advice is to nip it in the bud immediately. If they can't respect your wishes, then they don't deserve your presence." —@darlingcocoa.
"Your family may offer the opportunity to teach them. My kids are mixed. I think there were several months/years there when they were present in the midst of stupid commentary, but if they are family/friends who love you, they learn to grow. And you do too. People often say things that they don't understand thoroughly themselves. It doesn't take long. Babies of all colors are amazing teachers of love." —Mona Cummings
"Live your life so beautifully and fill it with love to the point where just by virtue of them being in your presence, their perceptions are 'stretched.' Show them that difference is the place and opportunity for growth. I have been in an interracial relationship for 17 years, and married for 13 years within that relationship. I have come to learn that you can't change people, but you can literally love the 'hell' out of folks. Keep smiling and pressing on. Nurture your own relationship and little family. And remember, your husband and child are 'your assignment,' so the opinion of others truly does not matter. Be encouraged!" —Lynnette @awomanwrites
"Take the approach to defend the things you believe in no matter who the hate is coming from. My son is 1. My co-worker made a comment about how he shouldn't have a lil computer toy that was pink (and cheaper!). I told her not to project her notions of masculinity on my baby." —Joy @kaorijoy
"As a multiracial child, I didn't quite understand what people meant or why their comments were offensive. My black father was quicker to brush aside the constant ignorance, but my white mother became my fiercest ally. My mother stopped women on the street to have respectful, open, advice-seeking conversations about managing my hair. She bought brown dolls and black history children's book. She loved her family, and lived a life that openly celebrated and showcased our diversity. Now, when people stop me to ask if my fair-skinned child is my own or tell me, 'Don't worry, she'll darken up,' I laugh because that girl looks just like her grandma. Set straight what's twisted then get back to the business of being beautiful. Love on! Rage on!" —Adrienne @lottaboutte
What advice do you have for our reader? Do you know of any online parenting groups or resources that could offer support? Let us know in the comments.