Friday, October 7, 2011
Need some advice...
I received a text today from a family member who is related by marriage. Someone married to one of my siblings. I have received less than 5 texts from this person in my entire life. The last I spoke with them, was months ago. The text was a picture of some young African children with the words "It's Friday 'N-word'!" To say that I was shocked was an understatement. A million things ran through my mind. Surely this was not intended to be sent to me... Is this a mistake, a virus... what the hell is this? My heart rate elevated, I instantly dialed my sibling... who at the same time just received the same text. My sibling apologized on their spouses behalf and they said they would talk to them.
My response text to my in-law was simply "Offensive and Racist".
After speaking with their spouse, my sibling texted me saying this person was just trying to get under my skin, and once again apologized. I texted my sibling back explaining that there is no humour in racism and this was extremely offensive and I was appalled. (Plus about 300 more words).
My in-law later returned my text with "Haha, I knew that would boil your blood for at least a little while".
My thoughts: I believe this person did not intend to hurt and offend me the way it did. (I was seriously almost in tears at one point!) However, there had to have been some knowledge that this would offend me and somehow that was viewed to be humorous. This person is educated and intelligent. This person uses humour to justify their actions or statements. This person benefits from white privilege and lives in rural Alberta where racism seems to be more accepted than anywhere else I have lived. I think that any person who uses racial terms in humour, is just lacking the knowledge of history and how these words can carry so much baggage and are associated with so much blood shed. There also seems to be a disconnect between this racist behaviour and the fact that I will one day have a daughter whom just happens to be black, and of African descent.
We all know as white adoptive parents (or soon to be) of black children... that this is a sensitive issue, and we have all had to address this somewhere along the line. I feel super defensive about this and haven't quite sorted out exactly how or where I will draw the lines when the time comes. I have already forewarned my family and friends that any racial jokes, humour etc. will not be tolerated what so ever. Does this mean that we do not attend family events when an offender is present? etc... these are details that I am hoping I do not have to deal with. I believe that everyone in my family is genuinely caring... a couple just lacking knowledge or understanding. So how do I make this person understand the impact of their message and why this is so unacceptable? Is there a book, website or video that I can share with this person and others? What would you have done? What should I do in the future?