Saturday, December 4, 2010

When racism rears its ugly head and that ugly head is called Grandpa

My father is a bigot -- always has been, always will be. And even though I hate it, there's not a whole lot I can say or do at this point in his life to change him. He's 74 and set in his ways. There was never anything I could say or do to change him, but that doesn't stop me from cringing when he makes a racial slur.

In case you can't tell from his photographs, the S.O. is mixed race. He is half Korean. He also has some Native American blood running through his veins. My heritage is mostly Irish and English with a bit of German and French thrown in for flavor -- but, you know, basically lily white.

My dad has accepted my choice in partner and has never said anything to me about being with a Korean man. But it also hasn't stopped him from using offensive language when talking about other people of Asian descent.

Recently, Dad shared the news that two of my cousins are also expecting babies. An older male cousin recently married a woman from Guatemala, and she is pregnant. More scandalous (to the family, not to me) is the female cousin who is pregnant -- out of wedlock -- by a black man. (I'll wait while you fan yourself on your fainting couch.)

Dad went on to say something to the effect that a half-Guatemalan baby and a half-Korean baby (never mind that our baby will only be a quarter Korean) is better than a half-black baby. Except, of course, he didn't use the word "black." Backhandedly implying that none of them are as good as white babies.

The bigotry is ugly. I hate it. And if one of my friends was to say what he said I would have called her on it. But, as I said, I have tried over the years to change Dad, and nothing's worked. So I say nothing and hope my silence says I disapprove. Not that he cares.

Dad doesn't live nearby so my child won't be constantly exposed to his racism. Still, I hope that when Dad does see my kid, he can rein in some of that ugliness. Because I also hope that Dad is around long enough for my kid to get to know Grandpa ... without having to know that side of him.

Wishful thinking.


  1. My grandma had some lingering racism, though not to that extent. Because she lived in California, it was mostly about Japanese and Hispanics, though.

    Oh, and the gays. Who shouldn't be allowed to get married. Of course.

  2. My mom -- from the south -- has always been horribly racist and even more so now when it comes to residents of Pueblo. I had to tell her, when the girls were young, to STOP saying such things in front of my daughters. Then, as they grew, I had to tell them that the things Grandma says are wrong and to not listen to her. It's probably best your baby will only get short bursts of Grandpa and maybe he'll be on his best behavior during those times.