Post # 1
My husband and I stay away from his side of the family. They live far away and each time that we have made the trip, my MIL and my BIL have made embarassing scenes. We believe that my MIL is mentally unstable; she is loving one minute and mean the next. We have also grown weary of my BIL being a shouting asshole and then weeping apologies later. Nevertheless, we are still polite and thoughtful to my husband’s family.
I am black and my husband is white. My MIL has referred to other blacks as “dark” or “colored”. First of all, I don’t know why she even has to mention race at all. I do not call my husband “My white husband” or say “My white in-laws”. I am aware that my MIL was freaking out to others when she found out I was black. The other day, we were on the phone and we were talking about American Idol contestant. My MIL started talking about Jennifer Hudson…”You know, that colored girl.”
Maybe it sounds like I am being petty, however I really don’t appreciate the way my MIL refers to black people. I know she is from a different time and a town where there are no blacks. However, none of the other family members in her age group EVER talk about race the way she does. I doubt that any of them would say that a black woman was “dark” or “colored” around me.
My husband is very embarassed and apologetic. He wants to say something to his mother but I don’t know if that is the best idea. My MIL will likely play the victim as she always does when her sons stand up for their wives. At the same time, I am tired of hearing her speak about black people the way she does. It is offensive and full of bigotry.
What would you do if you were in this situation?
Post # 2
You’re definitely not being petty. I would suggest you and your husband sit down with them and tell them directly that their comments, no matter how little they think they are, offend you and make you uncomfortable. They might not even realize that those things come off as rude an ignorant.
Post # 3
I don’t think you’re being petty at all, in fact, I think you’ve been incredibly patient and courteous. I think you may have to let your husband handle this one though (since it’s his family), especially since he sounds really uncomfortable with how his mother is acting.
Post # 4
If your husband wants to talk to her, I wouldn’t try to convince him otherwise. This would be a dealbreaker for me – I’d want her to be educated and to stop with her ignorant comments, or I’d refuse to see her at all. What she’s doing is entirely unacceptable and she needs to have that made very clear to her.
Post # 5
Holy shit! You are not being petty, your MIL sounds like a racist. Who the hell in this day and age would say, “that colored girl”? I think your husband needs to sit down with his mom and explain how her words are perceived. Yes, she might try to play the victim or think you guys are “too sensitive because she isn’t *really* a bigot in her heart” (*cough* yeah… right), but he still needs to say something. It’s possble that she really doesn’t know that it’s very inappropriate. It’s also important that your MIL knows that her son will stand up to her for you though, because boundaries need to be set, and the earlier the better.
Post # 6
- Wedding: November 2013 - St. Augustine Beach, FL
PositiveThinking: Your husband needs to speak to her about her comments. Also, you need to agree on an action plan for when she makes those comments in front of you. If you’re at her house what level of racism does it have to reach before you and your husband leave? One comment? Three comments after being asked to stop? At what point would you ask her to leave if she’s visiting your home? If you and your husband set parameters and enforce them she will learn to control her racist comments or you should reduce contact with her.
Bottom line is would she go so far as to call one of her own grandchildren a racial slur or term? The more you put your foot down now, the easier it will be later when and if you have kids.
Post # 7
PositiveThinking: Is this woman 90? If not, she needs to get with the times. I too would be offended if my race was constantly being called out by others not of my race.
Do you think she’s doing this to try to drive a stake between you and your FH? What is compelling her to behave so badly? Do you think it would help if you had a one-on-one with her to try to understand where you both are coming from and hopefully determine a middle ground that works best for you both?
Post # 8
You aren’t being petty at all, and not being exposed to black people is no excuse. I grew up in the whitest town you’ll ever imagine, and I knew that making comments about anyone’s skin color is inappropriate!
I think you and your husband need to sit down and tell her that these comments are not okay and are not going to be tolerated. Give her examples, like you gave us, and explain why they’re inappropriate.
Post # 9
- Wedding: July 2014 - Prague
I would hope for the best: that she is simply ignorant. With that in mind, I would probably find a way to let her know at least two things. 1. Constantly referring to someone’s race, every time you mention them, is unacceptable. (You could use the example of you referring to her as your “white MIL” to illustrate your point. 2. IF she needs to refer to race, “colored” is unacceptable; black is fine.
I really hope that she can take this to heart!
Post # 10
PositiveThinking: It might be a good idea for your H to have a calm, firm discussion with your MIL. It may not change her, but it might plant the seed of a new outlook.
And I just want to say how sorry I am that you have to hear hurtful words. If people would ever stop using words referring to race, we’d be a lot further along the path of integration.
Post # 11
i would definitely let her talk to him. the way you are handling the situation is the opposite of being petty; what SHE is doing is petty and wrong.
Post # 12
PositiveThinking: That’s definitely not petty at all. But what a rough spot to be in, too. Honestly I would think your husband would need to tell her that the way she speaks and truly her beliefs are unacceptable. And especially unacceptable when she acts that way around you and your husband. (they are unacceptable to me and I’m white!) I just personally couldn’t stand for it. I’d have him speak to her nicely and let her know that it’s hurtful to you both and that it needs to stop. And maybe don’t say it yet, but if it doesn’t stop, you will not be spending time with them anymore.
Post # 13
I think your Husband should absolutely bring it up. If your MIL is simply ignorant, she should be informed her choice of words is offensive. That way if she continues to use them it will be clear that she knows better and is choosing bigotry.
Post # 14
I don’t think you’re petty, and I feel really bad that you have to experience this.
Perhaps she has never had anyone “correct” her on this? I know my grandmother is from a time when “coloured” was the acceptable way to refer to anyone not-white when she was younger.
I remember one time, DH and I were visiting and she said how my cousin had a new “coloured boyfriend.” I just told her, “Nanny, it’s not really nice to use the phrase “coloured.”
That lead to a really good discussion on the appropriate way to refer to race. She had no idea that the words she was using were so hurtful. She isn’t a racist person AT ALL, just in her time, that was an ok way to speak.
Now, I understand that perhaps your MIL is a bit… unstable, so a conversation like that may not go quite as well as it did with my Nanny. I do think it should be up to your DH to mention how hurtful those words are though!
Post # 15
She is saying these things around you so I would stop her in the conversation and tell her, “you know black folks are no longer referred to as dark or colored. African- Ameeican or black is what you should call us. I happen to prefer black so feel free to use that. Which new term will you use?”
If she continues with dark or colored or is dismissive to the idea then tell her she sounds like a bigot. You can even play up that you know she is not a bigot because she loves you. Even if you don’t feel it say it in this case. Hearing her say such means things hurts becausw you care about her so much.
II haven’t had to tell an IL this, but I have used these tactics with friends. In their cases my friends were purposely pushing the envelope with the N word.