You see, I’m black and my boyfriend is white and we both live in the south. He and his family grew up in an all white part of town and I grew up in a racially mixed environment. My new boyfriend is very close to his family. He has told them about me, but I’m afraid he hasn’t told them my race or the race of my children. He wants me to met his family, but I’m a little afraid since I don’t know how they’ll respond to me or accept me.
What are some pointers you can give me as to how to handle our first meeting? Also, how do we handle family and friends not approving of our relationship? Lastly, do you think a relationship like ours will make it? I really love this guy and I would hate to come between him and his family. I know how awful racism can be and how it can tear up families. We have even discussed it, but there is a difference between discussing and experiencing it. — Racially Torn
It’s great that you and your boyfriend have started discussing a future together and how you will blend your families and create a new one together. But I find it odd that in all this discussing and planning, you don’t have a clear idea whether your boyfriend has mentioned to his family that you aren’t white. Obviously, you seem to think, if for no other reason than you two live in the south, that it could potentially be an issue, so why don’t you just ASK him if he’s told them? If he has, ask him what their reaction was. If he hasn’t, ask him why not, and whether he thinks it’s wise to keep it a surprise until they meet you in person. For all you know, they’re progressive southerners who couldn’t care less what race you are and it didn’t even occur to him to mention it to them, which would be awesome. And if you KNEW that, you’d probably feel a lot less nervous about meeting them, so ask your boyfriend what the deal is so you can prepare yourself.
Your boyfriend will have better insight into his family’s reaction to your race than you do, and certainly more than I do, so he’s the one to talk to about it. If he thinks there could be backlash, you deserve to know that. You definitely deserve to know that before you meet them in person, especially if he doesn’t plan to tell them you aren’t white before he introduces you. That’s really not fair to you. It’s not fair to any of you.
Even if race isn’t an issue, there are general steps anyone can take when meeting a new significant other’s family. Find out the names of everyone — and their relationship to your boyfriend — beforehand, memorize them, and use them. Ask your boyfriend if the older generation in his family prefer to be referred to as Mrs. and Mr. or by their first names. Since you’re in the south, I imagine “ma’am” and “sir” are always appropriate. Avoid polarizing or family-inappropriate topics like politics, religion, and sex. Ask his family about themselves — what they enjoy doing, favorite vacations, and what your boyfriend was like as a child. Maybe his parents even have photos they’d show you, which could be a good bonding activity. Bring a small gift for them, especially if they’re hosting you. Flowers are good, as is a small box of candies, chocolate or tea.
Finally, if there is racism in your boyfriend’s family and it could potentially create friction in your relationship, you and your boyfriend need to have some serious discussions about that. How much influence does his family have on him? If they can’t accept you, is he willing to sacrifice a relationship with them to have one with you (is that something you would even want?). And how would his family accept biracial grandchildren (or black step-grandchildren)? As a mother of two young children, you really need to think about the kind of environment and family you would be exposing them to. If it’s hostile to them, no man is worth it. Especially not a man you’ve only known a few months.
Obviously, you have a lot to discuss and think about. Start with the important questions and pose them to the person who can answer them best — your boyfriend. Hopefully his answers will calm some of your fears. But if they don’t, you need to figure out whether you really want to pursue a relationship with a man whose family may not treat you and your children with love and respect. Racism IS an ugly thing. It’s one that your children will inevitably face, especially living in the south. You won’t always be able to protect them — or yourself — from it. But you can protect them from having a family who rejects them based on the color of their skin.
As for any friends you might have who wouldn’t support your relationship simply because its interracial, they aren’t friends worth having, end of discussion.
You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].
theattack May 23, 2013, 9:05 am
You meet his family just like you would any other boyfriend’s family. You find out what they know about you, try to make a good impression, and be friendly and personable. Volunteer to help clean up after dinner and maybe bring over a dessert to share. I don’t think the race factor changes any of the steps except that you want to find out what their reaction was if they know already.
theattack May 23, 2013, 9:07 am
Also I think Wendy might have read a lot more into the Southerner thing than the LW intended. She barely even mentioned it. It doesn’t seem like a question of whether or not interracial relationships can work down here, because they do all the time.
GatorGirl May 23, 2013, 9:30 am
Yeah…that one paragraph is a little weird. I wasn’t raised in the South, but I was raised with good manners (ma’am included).
Addie Pray May 23, 2013, 9:35 am
“Ma’am” is the weirdest word on the planet. I mean look at it! I hate it. I hate using it and hearing it. It sounds so 1952, you know? Plus, just look at it. I can never remember where the apostrophe goes and how many letter A’s there are. Can we all agree to just stop using it?
Addie Pray May 23, 2013, 9:37 am
And, I mean, what is it?! Is it two words combined into one with an apostrophe? What the hell is each word? Come on, you can’t just have a word with an apostrophe in the middle of it – that’s absurd! And is it one syllable or two, or three like they draw it out in the south? Really, this word gets me all worked up.
theattack May 23, 2013, 9:41 am
hahaha, It’s sort of an abbreviated “madam.” Cute story: I was standing in a book store the other day when a little boy around 8 years old came up to put a book back on the shelf in front of me. He very politely said “Excuse me” and then turned away and realized he forgot to call me “ma’am” and kind of freaked out. He stopped and came back to add “Ma’am! Excuse me, ma’am! I’m sorry!” He was the most adorable, polite little child. I love when children take manners so seriously.
Addie Pray May 23, 2013, 9:53 am
Oh, madam. Duh.
paperheart May 23, 2013, 3:11 pm
That’s so cute!
GatorGirl May 23, 2013, 9:43 am
I personally am a one syllable ma’am-er.
And how do you feel about y’all? It has an apostrophe in the middle 😉
honeybeenicki May 23, 2013, 9:57 am
Y’all is one of my favorite words in the whole wide world. I grew up in the midwest, but quite a bit of my family is from the south, so I picked up a slight drawl when I was younger. I’ve shaken most of it, but I just can’t seem to let go of “y’all” 🙂
Lindsay May 23, 2013, 9:45 am
Yeah, you “can’t” have a word with an apostrophe in the middle. Cannot, I mean. 😉
Addie Pray May 23, 2013, 9:55 am
Ok well: 1) ok, I meant, you can’t have an apostrophe in the middle of a word that is just… one word. Combining two words with an apostrophe, ok ok. *But* you’ve proved me wrong because cannot is definitely one word yet we make can’t out of it… Still, show me another one! and 2) show me a word with the apostrophe in the actual middle of the word…. Aha, you can’t! I win.
AH May 23, 2013, 10:35 am
lets_be_honest May 23, 2013, 10:49 am
Addie Pray May 23, 2013, 12:38 pm
^ that’s the best one yet!
But, guys, these are all two words shortened to one with an apostrophe – that’s different than ma’am! plus, look, there are two letters following the apostrophe in ma’am – no other word has *that*. Ergo, it’s a weird word.
lets_be_honest May 23, 2013, 2:38 pm
You are ignoring my word…o’er
katie May 23, 2013, 10:54 am
I’d = I would = two words
she’d = she would = two words.
im pretty sure that AP is right that there is no other word with an apostrophe that is just one word. because really, isn’t cannot technically can not? we just first shortened can not to cannot and then to can’t?
i dunno, i just hate ma’am, so im on APs side. lol
CatsMeow May 23, 2013, 10:57 am
I mean, it’s a “thing” to use apostrophes if you want to have a word said a certain way… like never can be ne’er, as in ne’er-do-well. But it’s weird.
lets_be_honest May 23, 2013, 10:58 am
Addie Pray May 23, 2013, 12:39 pm
“i’m pretty sure that AP is right” — let’s put *that* on a mug!
Gold May 23, 2013, 11:07 am
lets_be_honest May 23, 2013, 11:12 am
d’oeuvre, as in hors
katie May 23, 2013, 11:14 am
thats french- totally doesnt count.
lets_be_honest May 23, 2013, 11:15 am
haha, ok fine.
Jodee May 23, 2013, 11:35 am
Nope, that’s “of the clock.” Three words!
Fabelle May 23, 2013, 12:12 pm
Is it really?? I never knew that!
Also, I hate “ma’am” too. The only time I “sir” or “ma’am” anyone is at my job when I can’t be like, “hey, asshole!”
Addie Pray May 23, 2013, 12:37 pm
ha, i didn’t know what’s what o’clock meant!
GatorGirl May 23, 2013, 9:41 am
Nope 🙂 It’s a sign of respect (IMO) and it comes from Madame in French meaning “my lady”. So think of it that way…everytime you get ma’am-ed sub “my lady”.
“You want fries with that, my lady?”
beelzebarb May 23, 2013, 4:22 pm
I’m a little late to this but I like ma’am too. I can’t believe there are so many haters!
katie May 23, 2013, 9:51 am
i also hate it.
Addie Pray May 23, 2013, 9:56 am
thank you. we win, everyone else loses.
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 23, 2013, 10:03 am
Count me in the hate it category too!
CatsMeow May 23, 2013, 10:26 am
Yep. I hate it too.
Amanda May 23, 2013, 10:47 am
Addie Pray May 23, 2013, 12:40 pm
i think the haters are winning! i count 1,000+ haters and only two lovers.
oh, sorry, “only two lov’ers.”
katie May 23, 2013, 12:41 pm
now were getting into text-speak… this is heading in a bad direction.
Sara May 23, 2013, 1:42 pm
I hate “ma’am,” too. But, I’d rather a stranger well, “hey, ma’am” to get my attention than “hey, lady.” I *really* hate “lady.” idk why.
Addie Pray May 23, 2013, 7:10 pm
oh i hate “lady” too. basically i don’t like people talking to me, haha. i’m kidding, that’s not true at all. by how i voice how strongly i hate things like hubby and ma’a’a’a’am you’d think i’m just a bomb about to explode when a stranger talks to me. not really so, i promise.
gatecrashergirl May 23, 2013, 2:37 pm
I seem to remember a fairly polarized forum discussion about the word Ma’am. I stand behind my original assertion that Ma’am is the most annoying word on the planet. 🙂
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 23, 2013, 2:39 pm
I stand with you!
katie May 23, 2013, 9:52 am
well, if this LW lived in chicago, there wouldnt really be any questions about it… in the south, there is always that question in the back of everyone’s mind, i think.
also, she likely is aware of it because she has experienced it.
theattack May 23, 2013, 10:01 am
The LW would be right to ask that question. I’m just saying I don’t think she did.
I’m guessing that if her boyfriend suspected his family wouldn’t accept her because of her race, he would probably warn her. I have some very racist extended family, and I’ve always warned my friends coming over to cookouts and such even if they’re white. I definitely warn my friends of color first. Maybe her boyfriend is embarrassed about it though, I don’t know. Either way she should just ask him. The internet can’t tell her whether her boyfriend’s family is racist.
iseeshiny May 23, 2013, 10:09 am
I disagree. Just because racism is less publicly acceptable in the north does not mean there aren’t any racists who would disapprove of their children dating outside the race. Racism is not confined to the south.
theattack May 23, 2013, 10:12 am
Yeah, thank you. Racism is more publicly known in the South, but for one thing, not all of us (or even anywhere close to the majority of us) are bumbling racist idiots, and like you said, there’s racism all over the place.
MackenzieLee May 23, 2013, 12:31 pm
I think organized racism is more prevalent in the south but I wouldn’t doubt the actual number of racists is similar in both places. In high school one of my sister’s best friends got grounded because her boyfriend was black. And for anyone who knows me IRL I live in one of the most liberal hippie towns I’ve ever seen that is definitely above the mason-dixon. I think we should worry less about the north south thing.
theattack May 23, 2013, 12:35 pm
CatsMeow May 23, 2013, 12:38 pm
Yeah, I think racism is definitely everywhere, but it seems more prominent in certain areas – like the south, and small towns. And reddit. Haha.
katie May 23, 2013, 10:15 am
oh, no i didnt mean to imply there are no racists in the “north”- but racism is still very much alive and kicking in the south. its still documented, its still experienced by people, its still a “thing” there.
im just saying i understand how a woman of color in the south in an interracial relationship would be concerned with it. also, she mentions that the boyfriend and his family grew up in the “white” area- which implies an area that is still sort of segregated, and that fact is probably influencing her fears as well.
FireStar May 23, 2013, 10:27 am
I still can’t believe there are still segregated proms…today. In today’s world. Blows my mind.
We drove past Bob Jones University this weekend and my husband was trying to remember what he heard about the school in the news before since the name was familiar – turns out they dropped their ban on interracial dating in 2000. Happily they dropped their ban…but only 13 years ago – just crazy.
katie May 23, 2013, 10:30 am
yea, i mean, if you live in a world, like if you live in the actual place where stuff like that happens, you are going to be apprehensive about dating a guy who’s family all hails from the “white side” of town- you just are.
i hope it works out- i really do. i dont think the LW’s fears are unfounded, and i think that a good talk with her boyfriend will help. after that, all the LW can do is be herself and let the family fall in love with her.
theattack May 23, 2013, 10:37 am
But Katie, the South is not all like that! Not at all. Not even close. The places that do things like that make it in the news so heavily because they’re rare. They’re talked about here a lot too because we think those things are crazy too. Most of the South is pretty open about things with a handful of random racist idiots plus elderly people who still live in the dark ages. Yes, those random racist idiots are vocal about it, but most everyone is fine with it. If I were the LW I would still want to scope out the situation beforehand, yes, but I feel like you think the South is just boiling over with racism and hatred, and it’s not.
katie May 23, 2013, 10:50 am
no, i dont think that. i know that good people are in the south- i know a bunch of em. my own father is racist and not from the south- its not like i just assume everyone is. i just understand why this particular LW has the thoughts and fears she has. i get it.
Lindsay May 23, 2013, 12:17 pm
The segregated proms and stuff that make the national news may be rare, but everyday racism where someone locks their car door when they see a black man walk by or where some black kid gets made fun of at school for “sounding white” are not that rare. And as a white person, I suspect that I was much less aware of racism around me when I lived in the South (or anywhere for that matter) than some who is black or Hispanic or whatever.
meadowphoenix May 23, 2013, 6:43 pm
There are not a handful of random racists in the South. There are many. I don’t really think racism is more common, but it’s more open, and when I lived there and visited various relatives in various states for 18 years, it was more hostile.
Lily in NYC May 23, 2013, 11:18 am
Exactly! Example: Boston. One of the most racist places I’ve ever lived.
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 23, 2013, 11:20 am
I’m from Boston and I certainly agree that it’s racist, but I’m living in Memphis I’ve noticed it’s more openly racist so it’s more noticeable to me.
theattack May 23, 2013, 11:29 am
Memphis is definitely extreme. It’s sort of a cesspool of all the racism, and it doesn’t help that living conditions are so racially stratified. Please don’t get a bad impression of all of the South from living in Memphis. It’s a pretty crazy city that’s known around here for being much more racist than the other areas. I’ve always wanted to study race and class dynamics in Memphis because it’s pretty tragic, fascinating, and extreme. Not at all like the rest of the state.
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 23, 2013, 11:37 am
I know that. I definitely have to check myself because before I moved I always scolded those who made disparaging comments about the south, but now I find myself feeling more like that and when I catch myself I scold myself because I know it’s not fair
theattack May 23, 2013, 11:43 am
I’m glad you know that. I always hate when regional discussions come up on DW because I’m always the resident Southerner that’s always screaming that we’re not crazy. Have you traveled in the South outside of Memphis much?
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 23, 2013, 12:11 pm
You’re not all crazy! Um, I went to Water Valley, Mississippi with my friend for a reading and when we walked into the pizza place for dinner beforehand people were looking at us weirdly, which we both felt uncomfortable with, but that’s not a race thing. I visited call-me-hobo for a weekend (which was awesome!). Driving by all the religious institutions were slightly uncomfortable because there were so many and I felt like I should stop at each one to atone for different sins. And I spent a day in Nashville, but that was for a conference thing and I didn’t spend too much time outside of it.
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 23, 2013, 12:12 pm
(I didn’t have a car this first year…getting one in July!…so it’s made it hard to explore the south)
ktfran May 23, 2013, 10:25 am
I don’t think it’s just the South though. I’m from the Midwest, but I know for a fact my dad would have a problem with me bringing home a black guy. Do I think it’s right? Of course not. But my family is racist. I won’t change their mind, but with each generation, it gets better.
BecBoo84 May 23, 2013, 12:04 pm
Unfortunately, a lot of small midwestern towns are terrible when it comes to racism, especially if most people never move away from the town and it’s a decent distance from a decent sized place.
ktfran May 23, 2013, 12:11 pm
Which is exactly why I needed to get out!!!!!! And I did. And I can’t move back.
lynn May 23, 2013, 10:38 am
Y’all check out this map I posted in a comment down below: http://users.humboldt.edu/mstephens/hate/hate_map.html#
Diablo May 23, 2013, 12:21 pm
I note that this map shows that there is no hate in Canada. (I know, I know, just let me keep my illusions.)
iseeshiny May 23, 2013, 2:15 pm
I dunno, I just saw a thing on John Stewart about Rob Ford, talking about how the hard-working “Orientals” are taking over Canada.
iwannatalktosampson May 23, 2013, 2:17 pm
Homie where you ben at lately?
iseeshiny May 23, 2013, 2:38 pm
Work has been kicking me repeatedly in the face. It still is, kind of, I just have a lull today. Things will slow down in June with any luck. I missed you all so much though!
iseeshiny May 23, 2013, 2:43 pm
PS you seriously gave me the warmest fuzzies for noticing 🙂
MackenzieLee May 23, 2013, 12:44 pm
I think we should stop focusing on the north south thing and just focus on the LW’s issue of worrying about not being accepted. Even IF there isn’t more racism in the south but just the stereotype of more racism. Her believing people will be against their relationship (even if they actually aren’t) will undoubtedly affect the relationship
theattack May 23, 2013, 2:17 pm
No doubt the LW needs help navigating the situation, but there’s nothing wrong with a tangential discussion.
TECH May 23, 2013, 9:15 am
Here’s how I look at it: families can place judgment on their child’s significant other for a variety of invalid reasons, race just being one of them. Examples:
1.) Boyfriend was not a college graduate, daughter was — family didn’t like that, even before meeting him
2.) Girlfriend did not have a job, son did — family didn’t like that
3.) Boyfriend is a liberal Democrat, family is entirely made up of staunch Republicans
You get the idea. People can be judged for a host of things that are either unimportant or that they have no control over. Yes, racism is ugly and very different from other forms of discriminication.
But in addition to following Wendy’s advice, I think the LW needs to consider that there are a host of things that families can judge new significant others on.
For instance, she is divorced with two kids. Maybe his parents won’t like all the “baggage” she brings to the relationship!
Who knows. The point is, people will judge you on all kinds of things. The best thing to do is discuss with the boyfriend what kind of people his parents are. If they’re not racist, you go ahead and meet them and try to make the best of this new relationship and blending your families.
temperance May 23, 2013, 1:43 pm
My family hated every guy that I dated because they were all in college or college-educated. They prefer blue-collar, work-with-your-hands types, even though, quite frankly, I am not that person. They just really wanted me to be.
kerrycontrary May 23, 2013, 9:17 am
I think that the LW is jumping the gun on the race thing. His family could be totally accepting of interracial relationships. Just because someone is from an all-white area doesn’t mean they hate interracial relationships (and in fact, you are assuming something about them due to their race and where they live). Just cross this bridge when you come to it.
Addie Pray May 23, 2013, 9:26 am
WWS! Also, hey, remember the great movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Where Joey brings her black fiancé home …. and Spencer and Katharine (et. al.) spend the whole movie coming to terms with the fact that they are of different races? I love that movie. And it always makes me want to try boysenberry icecream. But every time I watch it I’m shocked they’re not at all upset about the facts that: (1) they got engaged after, like, two weeks of dating, and (2) she’s 22, and he’s … in his late 30s. GROSS! But I guess that’s 1967 for you.
Moneypenny May 23, 2013, 12:25 pm
I love that movie! Sidney Poitier is so good in his role. And I’m such a Katherine H. fan. But yeah, I was pretty shocked about their quickie engagement and how young Joey is, and how it’s not the issue!
Fabelle May 23, 2013, 9:39 am
Yeah, I think the LW is focusing a bit too much on the race thing, & possibly being self-sabotaging? She sounds really happy in the relationship, but I’m thinking something about being a black woman in the south, combined with her status as a divorced mother, is making her worry “this is too good to be true! Something has got to go wrong!”
So, WWS—talk to your boyfriend about it. If he’s mentioning you meeting his family, a simple “…and will they care that I’m black?” should suffice. His response will tell you what you wanna know.
bethany May 23, 2013, 9:41 am
I think this is one of those things that you really can’t worry about, because worrying isn’t going to do anything. Other than preparing like you would for a “normal” meeting of the family with the tips Wendy mentioned, you can’t do anything. Either they’re going to accept you, or they’re not. It’s up to you and your boyfriend to figure out how you’re going to deal with it. You really just need to talk to him.
islandgirl33 May 23, 2013, 9:48 am
My husband is white and from the South and I’m Asian and grew up in the west. We met online and I remember the first time I was preparing to meet his parents. They already knew I was Asian because he told them but that didn’t subdue my fears about how they would react to me in person. It was a real fear for me and I had asked my then boyfriend, now husband what he would do if his parents did not like me, and he said it would be their problem. Luckily there was nothing for me to worry about. I also worried when I was going to meet my DH’s grandmother, who is a true Southern lady. Well, she is a lady indeed and welcomed me with open arms. I can totally understand your fears and the only way to deal with it is to address it with him openly. Make sure you both are on the same page as far as what ifs. I know it’s not something you want to bring up especially if it may never happen but it’s a real fear for you. My husband and I have children and I am still fearful of the kind of racism they may face. We do live in the south… namely South Carolina. I am fiercely protective of my boys but surprisingly I have not seen any type of potential racism towards them yet. Again, be open to situations. Treat his family as if they were your own. Be open, be real, be yourself. Your relationship has the same chance of being successful as any other relationship. Personally, from your letter, it sounds as if you have a real keeper. So is my DH who is my and our children’s biggest protector.
SasLinna May 23, 2013, 9:49 am
I think you should ask your boyfriend what his family’s position on interracial relationships is. You can do this without sounding accusatory if you just say “So I know you’ve grown up in an all-white part of town. Given this, I’m wondering what your family would think about our relationship. Do you think they’d be surprised when they find out I’m black?” Maybe he’ll respond that they already know that, maybe he’ll give you his thoughts on how he expects them to react. If he hasn’t mentioned it to them, I think you should ask him to do it before you meet them, just for you to be more at peace at the first meeting. It’s always special meeting your SO’s parents for the first time, you don’t need the additional stress of not knowing how they will react to your race. Regardless of the parents issue, I think you should be able to openly discuss race with your SO. It simply IS a potential issue that you might have to deal with, as unfair as it is. You need to know that your SO is in your corner. So talk to him.
Lindsay May 23, 2013, 11:57 am
Yeah, it’s something that he should be able to predict to some degree. Some racist people actually do like individuals of other races that they meet. And some people who don’t appear to be racist turn out to have issues with their children dating people of other races. But he should be able to say whether they have tended to be racist in the past or if he’s ever brought home someone who’s different from them or whatever.
Lindsay May 23, 2013, 9:56 am
Like Wendy said, I’d talk to him first and find out what he’s told his family and what they think/what they would think. I’m from the South originally, but I can’t see myself ever just saying straight-out to my parents that my boyfriend was black. That would just seem like a super weird statement to just make out of the blue, and I certainly wouldn’t want to imply that it was a problem by sitting them down for some kind of a discussion about it. Mainly, I wouldn’t tell them because I don’t really care what they think, and they have enough manners to deal with it if they found it surprising.
You put emphasis on his family living in an all-white part of town. Obviously I don’t know your town or their neighborhood, but I do know that while my neighborhood was primarily white, it didn’t mean that I wasn’t exposed to people of other races in other parts of life. My school bus was like 90% black, and my school itself was like 50-50.
So, I’d caution you about making assumptions that his family isn’t used to black people or doesn’t like them before you find out what they think. My dad is mildly racist (in that he likes all the nonwhite people he knows, but is judgy about minorities as a whole), but I can’t see him being a dick to me or my boyfriend if I brought somebody home who wasn’t white. He’s honestly probably going to be more upset that I’d likely be bringing home a rabid liberal than anything.
Obviously, race is going to be something that comes up in your relationship from time to time, and you might find assholish people giving you mean looks or whatever, but it shouldn’t break your relationship unless you and your boyfriend let it.
Older and (hopefully) wiser May 23, 2013, 9:56 am
I hate being called ma’am, too. Makes me feel old. I prefer when people call me Miss. Or young lady.
I guess I’m naive but I can’t believe the interracial thing is much of an issue in 2013. In NY, no one bats an eye.
ktfran May 23, 2013, 10:31 am
It is, unfortunately. Visit super conservatives in a small Midwest city and you’ll understand there are still racists.
Caris May 23, 2013, 2:13 pm
The only place of the US I’ve benn to was New York. I experienced A LOT of racism.
FireStar May 23, 2013, 10:01 am
LW you can’t control other people…their opinions, their reactions…just your own. So be your nice, pleasant self and that is all you need to worry about. Whatever the fall out is – if there is any – you can deal with after.
We were just in North and South Carolina last weekend and I have to say I didn’t see one interracial couple all weekend…which is so odd for me coming from Toronto where they’re everywhere. My husband and I did get a lot of looks – we actually aren’t interracial but we look it – and that was odd too… but everyone was super nice and polite. Don’t meet trouble half-way. These are the people that raised your lovely boyfriend… so think the best of them unless you have proof to the contrary. And everyone loves a nice box of chocolates as a hostess gift!
Anna May 23, 2013, 12:17 pm
You must have been in a different part of the Carolinas. Raleigh area is very racially diverse and I see interracial couples all the time. And I heard more derogatory use of the N word in Ohio then I have here so far.
MackenzieLee May 23, 2013, 12:27 pm
Anna in all due respect you’ve been here like 2 months. Racism is real in the south. Even in the really liberal areas. But obviously it doesn’t mean every person from the south is racist.
FireStar May 23, 2013, 1:59 pm
We were in Charlotte and surrounding areas, the mountains and Greenville SC. Not a one and like I said – plenty of stares (from both black and white people) but no one rude. My friend who lives there had some scary stories so it isn’t like everyone is cool with it but at least no one said anything to us.
Lynn May 23, 2013, 10:25 am
Just go about it like you would meeting any other guy’s family, just as others have said. I think you’re may be thinking way too into this (which I understand).
But since you are a little worried, here’s what I think:… You mentioned the Southern thing briefly, and trust me, if they’re true Southern people… then they will treat you with respect and will welcome you with open arms. Racism is just as rampant up North as it is in the South. And I think it’s good manners regardless but down here especially… always use ma’am and sir, use thank you, smile often, hold door and never never never never never use God’ name in vain… so if you’re going to let out a “omg” let it be “oh my gosh” or “oh my goodness” rather than God (even though it all basically means the same). It’s one of those cringe-worthy deals.
With that being said, my parents are an interracial couple. My dad being as white as they come and my mama is Hispanic. 30 years ago, both their families were not happy, but then his family grew fond of my mom and my mom’s family grew fond of my dad… and it’s like that hiccup never even happened.
And now to the DW community… have y’all ever seen this? http://users.humboldt.edu/mstephens/hate/hate_map.html#
(it’s a hate map based on hateful tweets… not like two people “jokingly” calling each other the n-word or any other ugly word)
theattack May 23, 2013, 10:28 am
I’ve never experienced a problem with saying “oh my god.” I say it all the time and have only had someone look uncomfortable a couple of times, and I think I was in church those times.
lynn May 23, 2013, 10:31 am
Really? When I was younger, I used to say it a bunch… and oh boy, I would get in so much trouble with my mom, teachers, whoever. It was always a big no-no. And now when other people say it, others are always like, “Now X, don’t use the Lord’s name in vain.”
theattack May 23, 2013, 10:33 am
What part of the South are you from, out of curiosity? It might just be a difference in our families or specific communities though.
lynn May 23, 2013, 10:36 am
I’ve lived in Texas (so more Southwest… def not Deep South) most of my life, but I’m originally from Mississippi.
lets_be_honest May 23, 2013, 10:45 am
Same here Lynn. If we said it, my mom would correct us to say Oh my Gosh instead.
lets_be_honest May 23, 2013, 10:46 am
(oh, and I’m not from the South)
Lindsay May 23, 2013, 11:45 am
I sort of assumed that she was also Southern, and is less concerned about how to deal with Southern people, but how to deal with a whole family of white people who may only spend time around other white people. Maybe I read over something.
Grilledcheesecalliope May 23, 2013, 10:28 am
I’m an interracial couple, well half of one I guess, and while I do love the south people do openly stare there. It’s irritating but no more than that. So you probably get looks on the street but I doubt anyone in his family would be rude enough to say something or treat you badly. Just be nice and don’t worry so much.
LM May 23, 2013, 10:45 am
So, I would echo what everyone else has said, but that would be beating a dead horse. So, all I can really offer is this:
If your boyfriend is as close to is family as you’ve said, then they probably accept him for who he is and whatever he comes with and he comes with you, so even if they are racist or bigoted (btw, just ASK if he’s told them… he probably already has and it’s NOT at the forefront of their minds) they’ll accept you because of him.
Jess May 23, 2013, 11:12 am
I read this differently than Wendy, “He has told them about me, but I’m afraid he hasn’t told them my race or the race of my children.”
I believe that the boyfriend has NOT mentioned her race and she is aware that he hasn’t told them about that part. When she wrote “I’m afraid he hasn’t told them,” I took that to mean “I’m sorry to say that he hasn’t told them.”
That expression “I’m afraid” can be used in the same way we use “unfortunately.”
Lily in NYC May 23, 2013, 11:20 am
I’ve been debating this (in my head) and came to the opposite conclusion. But I’m still not sure. I hope we get clarification because I think it matters (if she has no clue if he told his family then she needs to work on her communication big-time).
katie May 23, 2013, 11:22 am
good call- and also, isnt that such a southern thing to say? “im afraid that X happened”… its like “bless her heart” or whatever. very “polite”.
theattack May 23, 2013, 11:32 am
Well it is a common phrase, but it’s not like “bless your heart.” It’s just a phrase. haha Doesn’t carry any sting by itself, but sometimes people use it that way.
katie May 23, 2013, 11:36 am
oh i just meant its like “bless her heart” in that its a southern thing.
theattack May 23, 2013, 11:44 am
Ohh, gotcha. I always just thought everyone said that.
Fabelle May 23, 2013, 12:33 pm
Yeah, I think maybe you’re right. I’m reading the whole letter differently now—it sounds like maybe they HAVE discussed things, & he just hasn’t discussed it yet with his family?
“We even discussed how our respective families would feel about our union. ”
“I know how awful racism can be and how it can tear up families. We have even discussed it, but there is a difference between discussing and experiencing it.”
Jess May 23, 2013, 12:42 pm
Right, I took it to mean that there is a known problem and the BF *is* worried about how they will accept her. If they known to be racist, that’s a problem. I cannot even imagine how her being a single parent is going to add to it.
Fabelle May 23, 2013, 12:47 pm
For real. Hmm. I think maybe we all jumped to the “talk to him!” thing too quickly.
LW, if this is a known problem already & you’ve discussed everything, then I think ~he~ needs to now discuss it with his family. Surprising them with your presence is not the thing to do—tell them, & hopefully their attitude is one of “If you love her, so do we.” However, they may react by not wanting to meet you at all? So prepare for that & make sure your boyfriend is on YOUR side, not just attempting to mediate.
That’s all I got (again, for IF his family is actually racist & he knows that)
Jess May 23, 2013, 1:54 pm
Agreed that showing up with a surprise is not the way to go. If I were the boyfriend, I might just show them a photo of her. Like, “I’m dying for you to meet my girlfriend next week. Wanna see a photo of her?” Obviously, then they’ll know and he can gauge their reaction. I might wait another month to mention the kids, but that’s just me. I prefer to wade into areas that may be hostile rather than drop in and let it all fly.
Liquid Luck May 23, 2013, 4:12 pm
I think showing them a picture is a great way to go about it, that’s a really good idea. That way he doesn’t bring up race (which could make them think it’s a big deal because of the “discussion” around it), but it will be pretty obvious that she’s black, so if they have any issues with it they can bring them to him on their own, and he’ll know. It will also be a good way for him to show his family that he doesn’t think her being a different race is even an issue, because he won’t have actually brought it up.
painted_lady May 23, 2013, 11:15 am
Random weird family fact: my grandfather, who grew up in the Derpession, was not intentionally racist, but his terminology was definitely offensive, and my mom and her siblings corrected him constantly. He always felt badly that he was being offensive, but he really truly harbored no ill will toward any people of color. The thing that finally shook the habit, mostly, was when his youngest brother married a black woman, Mae. And everyone in the family loved her, everyone accepted her, no one so much as batted an eye. And my grandfather’s family was hardly what you’d call progressive. Texas dirt farmers, uneducated, poor, so they couldn’t get much more stereotypically Southern. But my grandparents never displayed the racist tendencies everyone identifies with the South.
The funny thing was, my grandmother (SIL to Mae) has family in a part of the country that’s known as being really progressive. When they discovered Mae was black, they FREAKED. Like, dinner table fell silent, everyone asked if they were joking, and then they asked a bunch of offensive questions. My dad’s side of the family is conservative to the point that it caused a stir when my cousin had an open bar at her wedding, but when the same cousin left her husband four years later and ended up pregnant from a one-night stand, everyone was so very classy and supportive of her.
My point is, there’s no telling, just based on past actions and prevalent stereotypes, exactly how they’re going to react. And he definitely should tell them what the deal is if he’s never dated someone of a different ethnicity. I’m curious – why haven’t you asked him yet if he’s told them? Or have you, and his answer was unclear or you didn’t believe it? You definitely need to develop better communication as your relationship matures, and unfortunately one of the things you’re going to have to learn to talk about is race. It’s uncomfortable, and it’s unfortunate that we still have to have conversations that are anything other than a celebration of what it means to have a culture and a past and what we can learn from each other. And maybe you aren’t up for a relationship like that; maybe it’s too much to deal with and you’d rather find someone with whom you don’t have to worry about his parents hating you because of your skin color, or field ignorant questions, or face any judgment. I definitely feel like the more people who are willing to deal with it, the faster it becomes a non-issue, but that’s not on you to fix. So figure out what you’re willing to handle.
Lily in NYC May 23, 2013, 11:16 am
What the heck? Why don’t you ASK him if he’s told his parents? Do you guys even communicate other than vaguely fantasizing about the future? You are not mature enough (regardless of your age) to be making plans for a life together other if you are not able to communicate on such a basic level.
parton_doll May 23, 2013, 12:15 pm
I haven’t read Wendy’s response yet or any of the comments, but my husband and I are an interracial couple living in the south. His family is from WV (that is not where we live now) and when I first met them before we were married, I was concerned because they’d had limited encounters with black people. But the first meeting went well … I was simply myself and pleasant and open and they reciprocated. Years later they told me that they were just as nervous as I was. So I would say just be yourself and open to them.
Now I have also run into some of his family members who were blatantly racist and I knew immediately there was nothing I could do to make the situation better. In those cases, I am simply polite, interact with them as minimally as possible and in the few cases where they have been ugly, I leave. My husband and I talked extensively prior to me meeting new family members so that I could be prepared and even discussed what to do in case someone was rude to me. Our plan is that we immediately leave if I am being disrespected. By the same token, if we are with my extended family and they say racial things that make my husband uncomfortable, we leave. Once I got to know his family a little better, I also gave him the option for me not to attend an event if I knew an “ugly” relative would be there.
Honestly, it has worked out well for us. I find that we have more cultural differences in our relationship from him being a “Yankee” and me being born and bred deep South 🙂 Hopefully this offered you some insight from someone who lives it everyday. We have been together almost 15 years and it’s been great!
MackenzieLee May 23, 2013, 12:29 pm
anyone else think it is weird that she talks about how many kids she will have “for” her boyfriend. Isn’t the normal term “with.” It makes it sound like she is his baby-carrier not his girlfriend
katie May 23, 2013, 12:29 pm
yea i noticed that too. it is weird.
MackenzieLee May 23, 2013, 12:38 pm
If I was going to surrogate for someone then I would be having a baby “for” them. Otherwise that baby is “with”
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 23, 2013, 12:34 pm
Yeah…I was slightly concerned about that
temperance May 23, 2013, 1:45 pm
I worked at a non-profit where that sort of phrasing was common for the women we served. It’s kind of weird and a little gross, but not really out of the ordinary.
CG May 23, 2013, 1:22 pm
Yeah, I was kinda surprised Wendy didn’t address that. My eyebrows totally shot up when I read that. Hopefully the LW just used awkward phrasing and “for” is not really what the BF said/meant.
iwannatalktosampson May 23, 2013, 12:48 pm
Like my Dad likes to say, “don’t worry about fixing a problem before you have one”. As of now you don’t have a problem with your boyfriends parents/family hating you. So cross that bridge when you get to it. Meet them with the intent that everything will be great. Bring a pie and some wine or beer or something. Play it by ear. If you really would feel more comfortable with a heads up then just ask your boyfriend.
sobriquet May 23, 2013, 1:29 pm
I am so late to this party and didn’t just want to hop into the discussion up above, but for those talking about racism in the south vs north, this is a really great take on it:
“It does no one any good at all to pretend that one is better than the other, or to imagine that people who live in a community that’s almost 90% white is actually somehow less racist than one that’s 45% black. The people in the former just rarely get the chance to overtly display it — or even to be forced to recognize it in themselves.”
iseeshiny May 23, 2013, 2:25 pm
That is a fantastic article, thanks for the link. Also, today is the day I learn what colonias and maquiladoras are!
painted_lady May 23, 2013, 7:52 pm
THANK YOU. Referring to the south/Texas/whatever as racist or close minded or homophobic – backwards, basically – does nothing but shift responsibility to “those” people. And I’m frankly sick of hearing from people who don’t live in the south exactly what’s wrong with “us,” like we’re all the same.
theattack May 23, 2013, 11:07 pm
For real! Preach it, painted lady!
SpaceySteph May 23, 2013, 12:45 pm
This is kind of weird because on one hand, if his parents aren’t racist, then it would be odd (as someone said above) to be like “My GF is black!” But on the other hand, if there is a reason to suspect it wouldn’t go over perfectly, then he should definitely tell them before you go, so they don’t get blindsided and you don’t walk into their first reactions.
Not that this exactly compares, but my Catholic husband did inform his parents that I’m Jewish before I met them when we were dating. It doesn’t really compare because they wouldn’t find out ever if nobody told them; you can’t tell by looking at (blue eyed, freckled) me that I’m not a WASP. Anyways, I’m glad they knew before I went and stayed with them for thanksgiving weekend (they live out of state) so it didn’t have to come out in some awkward way and then everyone have to react publicly to the news. Even though they aren’t bad people and it doesn’t bother them, sometimes they still need a second to let their imagined picture of their family meet with reality. For your BF’s family, they may just have a picture of a white girl in their head not because its their preference but because you tend to picture things that are “like you,” rather than “like others.” It doesn’t mean they’re not ok with you, but it might take them a second to rearrange the mental picture. And its really best for everyone if they get to do that not right in your face upon meeting you for the first time.
One easy way might be for him to text/email his parents a picture of you two at some outing. “Hi mom, hope everything is well. LW and I took the kids strawberry picking this weekend and had a great time. Here we are with our berries!” Then it’s announcing without announcing (your race, you have kids, their race all in one!) and if its not a big deal then he never made it weird by dropping something random.
katie May 23, 2013, 12:48 pm
i have to ask- whats a WASP?
theattack May 23, 2013, 12:48 pm
White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.
katie May 23, 2013, 12:49 pm
SpaceySteph May 23, 2013, 12:52 pm
Indeed. Its what all of the “plain” white people in this country usually are.
katie May 23, 2013, 1:00 pm
no i have to find out if im “protestant”. i dont even know how to go about that, but i think my families (both sides) were catholic. so… im not a WASP, right?
this is to intriguing.
Fabelle May 23, 2013, 2:05 pm
You’re not a WASP if your family is Catholic, no— I think technically I am because I’m Lutheran (or, rather, my family is) but when I picture WASPs, I picture…blondes? (or how SpaceySteph described herself) which I am not (& my hair is curly enough that, when I don’t straighten it, people ask if I’m Jewish from time to time…since curly hair is considered a “Jewish” genetic trait?)
I don’t know. It is interesting, but the distinctions are pretty pointless, really.
ktfran May 23, 2013, 2:24 pm
For some reason, I had in my head that a WASP was a privilaged white person, because any time I read a book or watch a movie and they refer to a WASP, the person they are referring to came from “old money.”
Or am I getting that confused with another term?
LadyinPurpleNotRed May 23, 2013, 2:26 pm
That’s part of their stereotype
ktfran May 23, 2013, 2:26 pm
Ok, I just looked it up. When you call someone that, it usually does mean someone with excessive power and mostly used to describe a small subset of people in the North.
theattack May 23, 2013, 2:26 pm
It’s just a correlation. People usually do make that association with WASPs. I guess I’m technically a WASP, but I never made that connection since I grew up poor. It’s not part of the definition, but it’s part of the stereotype.
lets_be_honest May 23, 2013, 2:27 pm
I’ve also heard white anglo-sax Princess…which would coincide with your old money idea.
strippedheels May 23, 2013, 1:46 pm
I am half of an interracial couple in NY. Boyfriend is black, I’m white. When we first started dating I was really nervous about reactions from our families. My parents were a little “weird” about it at first, which put a lot of strain on my relationship with my parents, but they claim its because of 2 things 1. i told my that he had a lot of tattoos and didn’t tell them that he was black at first (my parents have issues with a lot of tattoos – they’re over it) and 2. that it was “just different” and they werent “used to it”. His immediate family welcomed me with open arms but for the first year of our relationship his aunt acted as if I didn’t exist and kept trying to set him up with his “own kind” (her words). Now everyone is over it for the most part although some of his family from the south seemed kind of weird about it at the grandfather’s funeral a few months ago.
My point is that while we like to act as if its “just the same” as prejudices like someone mentioned above like when the child has a job/college education and the new SO doesn’t. Those are bad, but race is something that a person can’t change and its a bigger social problem than those things so I think the LW does have a right to be concerned about these things. I just hope that it works out for her and her bf like it did for me and mine. We’ve been together over 2 years and we’re very happy and our families have been very supportive.
Older and (hopefully) wiser May 23, 2013, 2:34 pm
My father told me outright when I was dating that he didn’t care what color boy I brought home. And that was over 20 years ago. As a mom, I want my boys to bring home girls who will let me see the grandchildren and who won’t mind coming to dinner from time to time. If your kids are happy, you’re happy. Hopefully the LW’s boyfriend’s parents know what’s important in life.
mylaray May 23, 2013, 4:44 pm
I was wondering if this was also about the LW being black and her boyfriend being white, since it hasn’t always been as common/accepted for the woman to be black/mixed race. I live in the south and out of the interracial couples I see, most of them the woman is black/mixed, which is something I didn’t see as much in all of the other places I have lived. So sure, things are definitely changing in that regard, but I do know some people who see it as less acceptable even now. But, I don’t really think the LW is overreacting too much. I think it’s a valid concern to make sure she is accepted for who she is by his family. Maybe it’s just odd for the boyfriend to mention his girlfriend is not white. I mean, when I introduced a black boyfriend to my parents several years ago, I didn’t tell them beforehand. To me, it didn’t matter so I didn’t see a point in “warning” them or making any sort of mention about it. I didn’t want them to have any preconceived notions about who he was. My parents were surprised, so that may not be the best way of going about it, but race is still such a sensitive topic no matter where you live. But it would be good to mention it with your boyfriend so you have an idea of how things could be when you meet them. And then if there is a problem, you can deal with it then.
acastil5 May 23, 2013, 7:37 pm
One thing to keep in mind is that your boyfriend will never be able to see things exactly as you do, and his family. For example, I’m Mexican American, and my boyfriend is white. He casually asked one day when my parents had immigrated. To him it was an innocent question, but to me it was ignorant and hurtful. See, I had never said my parents immigrated here, because they didn’t. My family has been in Texas since the early 1800s, and someone who also grew up in my culture would understand how frustrating it is to always be seen as an outsider in a place where your family has been for hundreds of years, whose contributions have constantly been minimized or ignored, to the point where you will always be “other”. I schooled him, and it is probably you will have to a couple of times with your boyfriend, maybe even his family. Honestly, I think situations like that are way stickier than them outright disliking you based on race.
spark May 24, 2013, 10:12 am
But if you identify as MEXICAN-American, that implies that your family is Mexican. As in, from Mexico. I just don’t see how your boufriend’s question was hurtful. My great-grandmother immigrated from Italy years and years and years ago, so I guess you could call me Italian-American, although I identify plainly as American. But if I called myself Italian-American, then it’s fair to ask about my Italian heritage.
acastil5 May 24, 2013, 11:13 pm
Haha im not arguing my ancestors didn’t from Mexico! My point is he assumed my parents were the ones that immigrated, not my grandparents, not my great-grandparents, or great great grandparents as is the case. He was floored that Tejanos sign the Texas Declaration of Independence, so you have to understand the great effort people have put into minimizing non-Anglo contributions in Texas History, and how that pisses off those of us who have been around since the beginning.
BTW, basic reading comprehension, go get some.
Bittergaymark May 24, 2013, 12:51 am
Ugh, more litters of kids to make each relationship important. I think I need a break from all this wanton babymaking insanity… Stop! Having! Such an absurd number of offspring with different sets of parents. It is bad for your kids and even worse for the planet…. Sorry, but none of you are so freaking great that the universe need you to spawn four or more children… Seriously.
fast eddie May 24, 2013, 10:31 pm
I don’t agree with you Mark, kids are wonderful and I wish I had some. Four sounds just about right but whatever as long as they’re loved and cared for. We know 3 couples our age that are childless so that makes room 8 or more in someone’s home. Maybe they’ll let me visit.
fast eddie May 24, 2013, 10:21 pm
I have a friend whose parents are different races. He’s a very good man, raised in Georgia and moved to California. He said that racism is more prevalent here then in the south which surprised me. Some of my neighbors in the Silicon Vally were interracial couples and we enjoyed their friendship very much.
Watch the movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”. Spencer Tracy did a wonderful job of talking about it in a real world perspective.
carolann July 10, 2017, 5:13 pm
I am way late on this, but my Grandfather was really big on the saying “oh my gosh” instead of “god” thing. We live in the South, but my Grandfather was from England, lived in PA as a young man and didn’t move to the South until he was in his mid thirties. Not Southern or religious at all. He was my Grandfather (and she was my Grandmother) NEVER Grandpa and he had tea everyday at 4.
And I am with Anna on the Raleigh thing. My mom is from there and I lived there for a while, it was very diverse and had lots of interracial couples just like Atlanta.
carolann July 10, 2017, 5:51 pm
I do agree with BGM on one thing…some people have a child with every single person they date. It does get a bit ridiculous, but I don’t think that is the case with LW.
I have 3 kids by two fathers, my first husband (I had one child with) was an abuser and I couldn’t get away from him fast enough. Short marriage.(I was with him 5 years total. ) I didn’t remarry and have another child until 10 years later and then another with the same man (I am still with) 7 years later. I don’t think that is so bad…but my BIL was dating a woman who had 4 kids by the time she was 23 by 4 different guys. She literally had a kid with every single guy she dated. That is a bit much. My BIL didn’t become BABY daddy #5 thank god!