Dear Harlan: I have racist parents and need help. I first found out about my parents’ racism during my freshman year of high school, when I dated a Muslim. Over the summer, they threatened to remove me from my high school unless I broke up with him. I said I did, but for the most part I didn’t. After my lie was found out, I continued until I moved on to a more “legitimate” relationship I started before college. In college, there was much of the same. There was always the threat of tuition and removal unless I broke up with my black boyfriend and also achieved a 3.5 grade point average. I mostly compartmentalized my feelings and maintained the relationship for the better part of two years without acknowledging it to my parents. Eventually the disapproval, lack of acknowledgement and disrespect overwhelmed my boyfriend, and he chose to break up with me. As I get older, I’m faced with a crossroads. How can I date people of my choosing and maintain a relationship with my parents? – Child of Racist Parents
Dear Child of Racist Parents: Sounds incredibly painful. And they’ve probably been racist a very long time, long before you were born. The racism probably goes back generations. The good news is you get to stop the cycle. Here’s the immediate challenge: You can’t control your parents’ thoughts, ideas or racist views. Yes, they might change them, but that’s their job, not yours. So, accept it or fight it. Fighting it will make you hate your parents. And you can’t hate your parents. You can hate that they are racist, but you can’t hate them. Work to control only what’s in your power: You have the power to love the people you choose. You have the power to live your own life. You have the power to control how you communicate with your parents. You have the power to share whatever you choose to share with people you love. As you get older and become more independent, you’ll have more control. While you won’t need your parents’ financial support in the future, you will always want their emotional support. Because you can’t depend on their emotional support right now, you must find more support. This means finding people and places other than your parents to find connection and community. Make sure one of these people is a therapist. We all need a therapist. Find a spiritual leader who has dealt with similar issues. Turn to experts in the LBTQ community. Find experts who have helped children work through relationships where family members have withheld love or set conditions on it. When you graduate, find a community with multiracial couples and open minds. As you find more support, come up with strategies on how to talk to your parents. Ask them what they want to know about your love life. Decide how much you want to share and what you want to communicate to them. In the meantime, give your parents permission to be flawed. Date who you want to date and choose what information you want to share. But you must work to find more people who will support, lead and love you without conditions.
ATTENTION READERS: Have racist parents? Dated someone with racist parents. Send me your advice so I can post it and pass it along to Child of Racist Parents.