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The following Featured Post comes from Relationship Group 3, Thread 11.

1. Narrowmindedness within your family--how do you deal with it....
Wed, Sep 15, 1999 - 12:29 PM/EST
bethanie

SusanV brought up a point about the narrowmindedness of people who don't accept her and her family, and I wanted to make this a topic of discussion. I understand your point quite well, but the narrow minded people I have to face in the south are in my own family, and I have always known and loved them...I do not love them any less because they feel the way they do..they have always felt that way, and I have always known it.

I just want to illustrate this point because when people in your own family don't accept, it can make life very hard. I'm going to say something here that might not be very popular, but is nonetheless true in my case.

What I want to say is when the narrowmindedness is in your own family, you can't just brush it off, because you can't deny your own family--or shouldn't in my opinion. I will always want my daughter to know my family, because I want her to know where I come from--because where I come from has a great deal to do with the person I am. I still love the people I grew up with. I don't hate them back for hating my husband and not being able to sit in the same room with him...if I did that, I would be just getting down on their level. But how to deal with people you have to see on a somewhat regular basis, who refuse to learn and grow? I'm interested to know your thoughts.

8. Narrowmindedness/Family Tensions
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 1:31 PM/EST
kusuf

I want to begin by saying that though I looked forward to the discussions that would take place here I have not yet joined in, partly because of time restraints and partly because of the medium through which it's taking place. So I have just read along and have neglected participating until now.

I have read through the above entries and I find a lot of tolerance for the narrowmindedness in mixed families expressed, and I do not share this. Race is the most important issue in this country and the behavior of my own family, though yes, it is objectively understandable because of fear, desire for assimilation, etc., is to me unforgiveable . My father's parents were Arab immigrants earlier this century. He and his parents and family were targets of racism. But he married a white French/American women, my mother and tried, I suppose, to assimilate as best he could. But in the course of this assimilation there were many things which were ignored, and as is well known there is quite a lot of self-hatred among minorities, one effect of which is the distancing of oneself and one's family from the issues of race and heritage and trying to overlook behavior which is directed towards the minority groups in the name of getting on with life.

Many people say that we have come a long way since beating and hanging foreign immigrants or former slaves, or any member of a group who is not strictly 'white,' but I strongly disagree—I feel that the same behavior has simply gone subterraenean, but is still there, and any adult who as part of a family still actively contributes to an attitude of racism is wrong and should be adamantly told so.

I simply do not think that cowardice and hatred, though indeed a part of life, ought to be encouraged at any price, for family unity or whatever, and I am very tired of the cliché 'going down to their level.' I no longer speak to my father or my mother, or any of my brothers because there is no way, any longer, that I will share in any sort of collusion with the mindset which engenders murder and dispossession.

We as adults are ALWAYS responsible for our actions, and we all have to pay for what is done in our name. I gave my family members many opportunities, by speaking in depth with them, to amend their views but when, in the end, they didn't, and did not renounce harsh views of minorities and the underprivileged (which ironically my brothers and I are among but my mother will not acknowledge), I wrote them off as a great danger to themselves and others and thought 'If this is the path they want to take, then let them take it.' But I want to make it absolutely clear that I will not condone the suppression of or violence against anyone for reasons of race, sexual orientation, religion, etc., under any circumstances, even among my own family, nor do I believe that it should be tolerated in other families.

10. To Kusuf
Thu, Sep 16, 1999 - 9:49 PM/EST
jacqueline

For some strange reason, your post made me feel extremely defensive, despite the fact that I stand firmly behind the choices that I have made in my family. I don't tolerate expressions of racism in my presence, nor does my husband. But I have gotten to the point in my life where if a person can manage to treat me with respect, I am not overly concerned with what they "think."

I have found that most racist beliefs are pretty intractable. The average person that have prejudices against minorities groups does not consider themselves racist. And when you present yourself as an example of the error in their ways, they typically toss you into the exception category and continue believing as they always had. (Note: I am not unwilling to believe that I lack the necessary finesse to successfully deal with these situations).

The bottom line for me is that I am unwilling to make my family life into a war zone. None of the members of my family are perfect, myself included. For the most part, they are patient with me and I am patient with them. Anyone who seeks to cause us harm is excluded from our life, PERIOD. But, those with basically good intentions, who suffer from a lack of exposure, don't always say the right thing, don't really "get it" , etc. are welcome to stay.

I guess we all make our choices.

12. Wow, I've missed a lot here...
Fri, Sep 17, 1999 - 2:57 AM/EST
bethanie

This is mostly for kusuf. I don't know what to say, except that you took my breath away. I'm sorry that you think I express tolerance for the racist people in my family. I think I stated that I no longer see the racist people in my family..that they are no longer a part of my life, partially because they choose not to be, and partially because(and this is most important to me) I will not allow my daughter to be threatened by their views or the dangers which knowing them my present to her or her sense of self. I was mainly speaking to those of my family who though have come around to 'accepting' my husband and I, still occasionally make offhanded remarks that make me uncomfortable. I generally answer these remarks with as much candor as possible, but sometimes the dynamics of my family make openness about such matters difficult.

Here's something else I would like to point out. I choose not to live my life in anger. I could very easily do that. I could easily get angry over every stupid question or remark or lear. But I don't. I think one of the big failures of interracial marriages, and I'm sure others will correct me on this, is that the marriage, once the novelty of being the 'mixed' couple wears thin, is really made of nothing. And that if you make your marriage into a forum for your social and political views, ie, marrying someone to prove a point, and then facing the world angry at it with your spouse, it just doesn't work. So I choose to be maybe more forgiving than I should of some, to preserve the peace that I have with my husband..that is, I may get upset at what is said or done, but after all is said and done, I leave Mississippi and go back to my husband--and I am always grateful to get there. I simply cannot live my life battleing everyone. Therefore I choose my battles carefully.

Hope you understand this, and I guess I was made to feel a bit defensive myself.

Bethanie

13. For Bethanie & Jacqueline
Fri, Sep 17, 1999 - 9:54 AM/EST
kusuf

Why defensive? It's not an attack. But I'm certain that these things begin in families, and ultimately I think that's where they'll have to end. Family unity places demands on everyone, from the most uncompromising to the most timid, and depending on the situation someone, or everyone, is going to get hurt. There is no way to avoid this pain.

My response to both of you, and anyone else whom I haven't addressed specifically, is fundamentally I will not give lip-service to anyone, no matter who they are, over the issues of racial or any other kinds of prejudice — not for peace, not so my son can know his grandparents (or my wife's family, one grandfather of which, by the way, offered to pay for the vasectomy of the husband of one of his granddaughters who had married a black man). Though this is said tongue-in-cheek, even Hitler was a nice guy sometimes, or, conversely, no one is all bad.

I want to end by saying this: I am reminded very strongly of a documentary I saw of PBS about the protests against the Vietnam War in which a priest was exhorting his parishioners to protest. They complained to him that if they did they would go to prison, and what then would happen to their children? they asked. His response was, "What's going to happen to them if you don't?" That response sums up every reason why I joined this discussion.

Read more featured posts here or continue reading thread 11 from Relationship Group 3.





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