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June 13, 2020

A Painful Awakening: When Subtle Racism is in your own Family.

“It’s not in my family​” is the first thought of someone who is awakening to the racism and prejudices in our world.​ The second thought being, how would I know?

Some of our culture thinks that unless racism is obvious, like having a family member be a white supremacist, then it’s not in their family. It can be subtle and often overlooked.

I’m noticing many people are questioning if racism, prejudice, or bigotry is in their family​.​

Growing up as an interracial child in a prejudice white, middle-class family gave me eyes and ears of what happens behind closed doors.

But before I begin…

It is important to share: I love my family. My family has given and does a lot for me. It is not my intention to throw them under the bus, or shame them in any way. I am grateful for how strong they have been to each other during the hard times. At the core they are not bad people. They are kind, giving, family-oriented, sincere, and loving. I am proud of my heritage regardless of its imperfection, and do not at all resent where I came from.

However, did their racist and prejudiced remarks slip through unconsciously?

Absolutely.

How do I know?

​>> Every single time I heard someone say something prejudiced it felt like a dagger in my heart.

​>> ​When I would talk to certain family members, I prayed they would not say something offensive or bigoted.

​>> When I visited my family, I would brace and prepare myself to not to feel “less than” and often felt like I had to prove myself worthy of being in the family with the other privileged cousins.

​>> When I would hear a joke, I hoped it didn’t involve someone’s race or creed.

​>> When I dated someone new, the first question asked wasn’t “does he treat you well?” It was “what is his ethnic background?”

​>> When politics or social issues were discussed it was often with a “lesser” race behind the problem.

​>> When I would bring my friends around, I hoped they wouldn’t feel uncomfortable by something said about another culture.

​>> ​When my Asian mother was present, I would see her shift into being on edge and often biting her tongue (and now I understand how strong she was trying to be to not let it get to her).

Every single one of these things shape our children to feel superior or lesser then. Based on my own family and many clients and friends I know, this is a generational pattern. This didn’t just happen to my family or to yours. These things were learned and passed down.

This is why it must stop here and now. The journey to end this will be a long one, and we are just getting started.

I know you’re exhausted, you’re emotionally drained. It’s loud, it’s ugly, it’s in your face all day. You’re seeing this issue isn’t going away but this is also why we need to band together so it doesn’t continue happening.

Take a break if you must, reset, take care of you. But gain your strength, stay awake and open because this will continue if we don’t shift the paradigm. We have a lot to heal and healing takes time.

After decades of dealing with this, as painful as it was to do, I have distanced myself from my prejudiced family members. 

Agreeing to disagree is not the answer. That is a demeaning way to bypass the issue. Things have to change. A person shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable when they visit or talk to their own family.

If you’re an interracial kid like me, you know this is another level of the spectrum. Many of us don’t know exactly where we belong (that’s another post for another day).

This path in awakening is not easy. It’s daunting, it’s rough, it’s real, and I too am healing. PTSD is coming up for a lot of us humans and no one is navigating this perfectly. 

Keep forgiving, keep finding compassion, keep feeling, keep having faith that we are in this for the long haul, and things can and will change for the better. Keep going.

~

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