Bullish Q&A: What to Do About Your Racist Family


Jen! My family does not approve of my fiancé; he is a Muslim and doesn’t have the same educational pedigree that my Asian family expects. None have even met him. Some have resorted to childish antics (ranging from stealing money from me, in an attempt to bribe me to end things with him), to “banning” me/us from T-giving, Xmas, even “the state of California,” telling me that I will be sold into the sex trade, or become brainwashed by ISIS. Is it time to cut ties w/them? Seriously, WWJ(en)D?!


Whoa. Wow. Whoa.

None of this is acceptable behavior from anyone, especially adults who think they have some authority over you.

Please go out and make some money. Get your career right. Make sure your fiancé is doing his part. You don’t need a degree to be successful in business or to provide value to others.

Pay for your own wedding. Don’t get married anywhere where these family members live; do it on your own home turf. That may mean waiting awhile to get married. That’s fine.

Tone down your communications with your family. Don’t listen to this garbage and definitely DON’T ARGUE. That gives them power over you. If they say something terrible about Muslims, just laugh dismissively. Like you’re the adult and they’re the children. Children do say ridiculous things sometimes, don’t they?

Build your life with your fiancé and do awesome shit. Get involved in charities and community organizations. Send a holiday [holiday of your choice, obviously] newsletter full of pictures of you two being fun and awesome and excellent, while building houses for Habitat for Humanity or tutoring kids in low-income neighborhoods or working in a community garden. Include a favorite recipe for the holidays. Maybe take some pics with a friend’s kids. Throw in a favorite poem.

The point here is not that you need to do extra community service to show you’re both good people. The point is to set the dynamic that you are not a child and you are not subject to your family’s prejudices, whims, and ridiculous antics. You have a well-established adult life and are part of a larger community of people who all support you.

Do so well at life that your family would be intimidated to keep being racist motherfuckers. Make clear that your world is much, much larger than theirs.

And if you have to get married without them, you can spend the rest of your life being gentlewomanly, mature, sadly bemused, dismissive, and above it all. Send them beautiful invitations, and when they say they aren’t coming, say you’re so sad you’ll miss them, and leave it at that. Don’t do anything passive-aggressive. Just keep them on your holiday letter list. Send an announcement after the wedding (like a postcard with a wedding pic, the same that you might send to a distant friend who couldn’t make it).

If you’ve built an amazing career and an amazing life within a community of people who care about things and aren’t racist, you won’t care so much about what your family thinks. You’ll have other, better people.

You may also enjoy Andrew W.K.’s answer to How Do I Make My Family Understand I’m Transgender? What I love about this reply (other than the fact that it is from Andrew W.K., who suddenly has an advice column?) is that, while he does advise the question writer to respond with a vast show of love that her family really doesn’t deserve, he also makes it clear that they, not her, have the problem.

Good luck and mazel tov! (Tell your fiancé I said hi and good luck!)

{Note: Muslims are not a “race,” but the word “racist” is commonly used to refer to prejudice against Muslims. Whatever you want to call it, everybody needs to quit it.}


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