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How much do I need to engage with my serious girlfriend’s racist immediate family members? She is close with them, and I’ve spent time with them in the past (big holidays, etc.) since my own parents are lowkey, but put simply I no longer have the energy or inclination to do so, even though I love my gf. I chose her, not them. I have no love for them! She knows how I feel about this but it seems to weigh much more heavily on me than her. I’m also a queer POC whereas she & her whole family are very white.
Friend, I am going to say something to you that is hard, but I’m going to say it with love. And I don’t mean love in an artificial way, I mean love like bell hooks defines in Teaching Community: “as a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust.” So I want you to read what I say knowing that even though I don’t know you, I care about you, I am committed to your well being, and to you knowing yourself and your worth. I feel responsible for you because as queer people of color, one of us is not free until we all are free. I respect you. And I trust you to do what you need to do with this advice. Maybe it will be helpful, maybe you will toss it out and ignore it. Both are totally fine actions, I just want you to know that it’s coming from love and not meant to hurt you.
You have to break up with her. Shorty, you’ve got to break up with her! You write, “She knows how I feel about this but it seems to weigh much more heavily on me than her.” If you’ve told her that her family’s racism bothers you so much that you “no longer have the energy or inclination” to spend time with them, and it’s still not a big deal to her, that should be a red flag. It’s not like this is her racist grandma who she only writes birthday cards to, this is her immediate family, and clearly they matter to her more than you. Get her out of your life NOW!
This is hard to take in! This is so so so so so hard to take in. Because she has pretty hair, or she smells good, or she’s got great goals and aspirations, or the sex is good, but she’s got to fucking go. You chose her, but in some very important ways, she did not choose you. I’m not going to say that a person who has close relationships with racists is a racist, but I will say that her family’s racist ideology played a formative role in her life. In some way, she is okay with that, if she doesn’t think it’s worth it to confront their racism. She is choosing them, and when things get hard, can you trust that the racism she grew up around won’t enter into your relationship? Even if she says she’ll never use [insert racial slur here], are you always going to be anxious when you get into disagreements that she might? What does that do to a relationship? Is that honestly a relationship you want to be in?
Listen pal, you and I know both know that a large part of what makes whiteness so insidious is that white people don’t see whiteness. When people of color call out racial oppression, we’re making a big deal out of nothing because whiteness isn’t seen as something used oppressively, it’s just seen as normal, no big deal. And because we live in a society where whiteness is the norm, sometimes, if we’re not being mindful, we can forget that whiteness is there. Like, of course, you’re not always going to think about how whiteness makes your girlfriend access wider privileges than you all the time, you’re in love! You shouldn’t have to think about it all the time.
But whiteness becomes glaringly visible when it’s used against you, and I don’t want that to happen to you. You don’t deserve to be partly loved by someone who thinks its okay to be in community with racists. You deserve to be wholly loved by a girl who loves you and your brownness and your badass hair and all the other great things about you. I believe you will find that girl or non-binary babe or whoever you want it to be, but my good, good, friend, this girl is not her. You need to break up with her. She’s gotta go. You’re worth 100 of her. Take that knowledge, and make this brave step for yourself. You deserve it.