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#791665 - 11/07/12 07:05 PM sister defensive when told about disrespectful kid
chiak Offline
Newbie

Registered: 08/01/08
Posts: 32
Wow! This blew up in my face. My neice made a racist statement at dinner which basically disrespected people of that race including me, her aunt who happens to be of that race. SIL (mother of kid) just laughed. Father-in-law actually said, "let's not be racist" but nothing else was said. I was so shocked and I don't even know what all I felt. My mother put up with way too much racism growing up and this was the first experience I ever had- from my own neice?!!
My husband was beyond upset- mostly at how his sister just laughed and didn't even seem to care about the disrespect? Does she know my ethnic background? (we've been married 20 years and dated 5 years before that- I don't have a specific ethnic look to me but really??!!
So, I wrote an email for my husband to send to his sister.(chose email vs. calling because I wanted the words to be chosen carefully and the knew she thought if she read it a couple times she would see the purpose and not get defensive.- backfire! I merely wrote "I know she is just a kid and didn't mean anything by it, but when you laugh she isn't learning that it is disrespectful to others, including her aunt sitting at the table. I am hoping you can talk to her about how words can be helpful or hurtful."
wow- SIL really, really got defensive and let us have it. wrote 3 emails. basically saying how dare you judge when you don't have kids and have no idea how to raise them and you may think you do but you don't. then a p.s. you both act "holier than thou" and stuff about how we don't get involved with his family and how is that working out for us?
I didn't see any of that coming. wow!!! I tried to be so careful in my wording. Now it seems there is some deeper resentment or maybe hatred there? wow. I don't even know the next step.
We lived in Alaska for awhile and know the anger of the mama bear when defending her baby cub. But, this neice is 14- a freshman in high school. She is def. old enough to be able to be told that what she said was disrespectful. I don't hold it against her, because she is a kid, but I thought it would be best to stay silent and point it out to her own mother so she could then explain to her daughter that comment was disrespectful. I am the one who should be angry because I am the one who was disrespected and now my SIL won't address the racist comment, only defend her mothering skills and attack us further?
What would you do????


Edited by chiak (11/07/12 07:08 PM)

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#791689 - 11/07/12 08:33 PM Re: sister defensive when told about disrespectful kid [Re: chiak]
Lori-Dreams Offline
BellaOnline Editor
Chipmunk

Registered: 07/27/12
Posts: 1963
You know, in a true family pack, everyone is allowed to "raise the kids" together, correcting and tending as necessary. Unfortunately, this is not how the American family unit is today.

On the other hand, you have no idea if the mother did correct her daughter after the event, privately in order to preserve the girl's dignity. Embarrassing a young person in public can have a serious negative affect.

As inappropriate as that comment was, you were right that it truly was not your place to say anything to the child. She still is a child, for one thing, and learning social protocol and political correctness. She definitely needed correction and instruction. Unfortunately, not from you.

Your correct response would have been to silently excuse her for being a young, immature and uneducated child and to hope that her parents would provide necessary guidance privately. After all, this was the first offense. If it were to occur on a repeated or regular basis, then it would be fine to speak to the mother in private. If she did nothing, then if the child made another racist comment, I would bring it up as a topic of conversation: "Do you know what it means to be racist and why it is wrong?" This way, you are not scolding her, just inquiring about what she knows and opening the door to educate her. Her parent can't get defensive about that, especially if you keep your tone pleasant and nonjudgmental.

ANY mother gets defensive if she detects her child is under attack. And your email was seen as an attack and her initial, primal response was to counterattack. Her more evolved and civil response should have been to apologize for the offense, explain her daughter's youthful ignorance and instructed her daughter to send you a written or verbal apology. It was a learning opportunity.

But some of us react purely on instinct and emotion not having evolved far beyond our primal roots.

Your SIL took her email as a criticism of her mothering skills. omg. NOT THAT!!! Let me tell you that mothers are a defensive lot. My three sisters and I love each other but when our kids were little, boy were we sensitive about how we mothered and we got our dander up at the slightest indication that someone didn't approve. It didn't help that we all mothered completely differently.

Anyway, choosing your words carefully could have helped to avoid this. Instead of saying the daughter was disrespectful or not learning anything by her mother's laughing, it might have been better to say, "I was hurt by comments about____."

But that is a moot point, in the past. Unfortunately, the woman took the opportunity to bring out hidden resentments and grudges to make things worse.

I would send another email:
1. To apologize for causing any upset. That was not your intention. You only wanted to let her know that while you understand her daughter is young, you wanted to explain how comments like that hurt.
2. To address the grudges she brought up. Let her know that you were unaware of her feelings about ___ or ___. That you do like to be involved with his family but sometimes there are other commitments. That you and he do miss being with them more.
3. To apologize if you in any way gave off a 'holier than thou' attitude because you certainly do not feel that way at all. And to please let you know if there is anything you do or say to give that impression so you can refrain.
4. To smooth the rough edges. Say that your email was not worded well. That you think that she is doing a fine job of mothering. You only meant to express that you were hurt by the racist comment and hope that the family, including the young girl, doesn't really feel that way towards you or members of that race.

No, you shouldn't be the one who is angry. Why take offense to an ignorant comment made by an adolescent? We all were young once and in need to teaching. Sadly, not everyone gets taught. If the mother doesn't teach the lesson, the rest of the world will teach her daughter in a rather cruel manner.

If your goal is to defend your race, you can put the child and mother in their place with a lecture which will only make them resent your race members more. The better way to defend your race is to live a good and respectable life.

If your goal is to keep the family peace, you have to let this go. Chalk it up to stupidity and even bad genetics.

BTW, I can get super defensive about racist comments being that I am a minority race here so I know how that feels. But fighting back is not the way to improve race matters. Education is the answer.

LOL. That is easier in principle, I know. Sometimes, when I hear "stupid Asian driver" or "typical Asian rudeness" my first instinct is to yell, "I'll show you how Asians drive!" as I ram their car!!! Or say, "I'll show you rudeness!" LOL. But I chalk it up to my stupidity and bad genetics! LOL.




Edited by Lori-Dreams (11/07/12 08:42 PM)
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#791691 - 11/07/12 08:35 PM Re: sister defensive when told about disrespectful kid [Re: chiak]
Lori-Dreams Offline
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Chipmunk

Registered: 07/27/12
Posts: 1963
I apologize for the length post above!
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#791749 - 11/07/12 10:31 PM Re: sister defensive when told about disrespectful kid [Re: chiak]
chiak Offline
Newbie

Registered: 08/01/08
Posts: 32
Thanks for your insight Lori, that was helpful. I sure didn't mean to cause such problems with my wording! I really tried to be frank and to the point. It was good to hear your perspective with your sisters. I am glad you wrote such a detailed reply. It was good to read and I will mull it over.

I do not and will not hold any comments against my neice or any other child- the reason for the anger is because her mother laughed and is now not addressing her own reaction, but instead attacking us. I agree that I don't want this to ruin family relations!!

and I loved your last paragraph about the retaliation remarks that you keep in your head. I will try that one!
thanks again!

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#791751 - 11/07/12 10:47 PM Re: sister defensive when told about disrespectful kid [Re: chiak]
Lori-Dreams Offline
BellaOnline Editor
Chipmunk

Registered: 07/27/12
Posts: 1963
Of course, you didn't mean to cause problems. Sometimes, it is hard to avoid though simply because people take things the wrong way.

Returning to the example of my sisters, all the upset was less about any truly offensive remarks but about our internal insecurities. I think most moms are infinitely insecure about their mothering so they snap and snarl to defend themselves. And on the other side of things, mothers can be the most judgmental when it comes to other mothers!

"Why didn't she bring another blanket for that poor, shivering baby?"
"The baby must be thirsty all the time. The mom said her doctor told her not to give the baby any water because it gets enough in formula."
"She's still breastfeeding? That's just wrong."
"She doesn't teach that child any table manners."

Moms have one universal Achilles heel: their children and anything to do with them. Touch upon the subject the wrong way and prepare to die. They not only defend their children but how they parent.

So what I am trying to say is that this is more about HER than about you. She took it the wrong way because you hit a nerve. It doesn't matter if you're right or not (but you were right, BTW!)


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#791971 - 11/09/12 02:50 AM Re: sister defensive when told about disrespectful kid [Re: chiak]
Nina - Siblings Offline

BellaOnline Editor
Amoeba

Registered: 12/03/07
Posts: 71
Hi Chiak,
I'm sorry to hear about this family issue. It's a tough one and you have already gotten some pretty good advice from Lori! However, I actually have a slightly different take.

I think you did the right thing to address such a serious issue the first time it was brought up to you. Within families, we have to pick our battles and a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself how much will the issue/incident/problem mean to you in one week? One month? One year? It seems like this one could mean a lot to you for years to come.

Many times when I talk to family members at odds, they cannot really pinpoint the actual problem. It's all just a bunch of bad feelings intertwined in the relationship like weeds in a flower garden. Nothing good is able to grow unless you start to prune.

Now while I think you were right to address the issue with the mother, I don�t think you communicated your position very well. For instance, using email to open a dialog with a family member about a serious, personal issue may alienate the other person -no matter how you word it. Some people think email is too impersonal and find it insulting and even disrespectful (yes, disrespectful!) that a family member won�t �take the time� to pick up the phone to talk. Also, using email is a one way conversation. When it is unexpected and includes criticism, a person might feel attacked or "dumped on." Even when you believe you�ve carefully worded something in writing, your intended tone may not translate. (I actually wrote about this ). So while your feelings and actions are understandable, so is you sister-in-law�s initial defensiveness.

The question of what to do now was also answered by Lori. I would certainly do her point #1 (apology) and then express your feeling as she stated in point #4 �You only meant to express that you were hurt by the racist comment and hope that the family, including the young girl, doesn't really feel that way towards you or members of that race.�

Without knowing more about your relationship or sister-in-law�s POV, I can�t say whether addressing her old grudges or her view of you in general would be a healthy conversation to begin. It all depends on if you and your sister-in-law are really invested in healing the entire relationship. If you're not ready for that, then at least try to fix this last blow up so you�ll still be able to spend family holidays togethers. smile


Edited by Nina - Siblings (11/09/12 05:32 AM)
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#792254 - 11/11/12 03:37 AM Re: sister defensive when told about disrespectful kid [Re: Nina - Siblings]
chiak Offline
Newbie

Registered: 08/01/08
Posts: 32
Well, this is seeming to get worse. We used email because both my SIL and husband can be reactive and we knew it is a touchy subject so figured with email she'd have time to really read and think about this before responding. My husband emailed again saying he didn't mean to sound judgmental, he was sorry he came off wrong and that he wanted to tell her he was upset by her reaction which came off disrespectful. (laughing after daughter made racist comment)
SIL wrote back saying she did fly off the handle but she does feel judged by us and FYI did talk to her daughter who felt bad.

The problem is there is no apology whatsoever, no comment from SIL about how she came off from laughing after her daughter was so disrespectful- so we really haven't gotten anywhere.
This really is a losing situation. We are not judging our neice or SIL, we are merely stating that I felt very disrespected. With her refusal to take responsibility for her actions, let alone explain to her daughter that she should truly apologize... it seems obvious she just plain does not respect me- not necessarily for my ethnicity- just in general.
She just emailed again and invited my husband to talk on the phone with her. That will be interesting. Hopefully he will get ahold of her tomorrow!!

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#792261 - 11/11/12 05:09 AM Re: sister defensive when told about disrespectful kid [Re: chiak]
Lori-Dreams Offline
BellaOnline Editor
Chipmunk

Registered: 07/27/12
Posts: 1963
I'm sorry this has escalated, but it isn't as bad as you think. The SIL can admit "flying off the handle" so that is good. And she did speak to her daughter who feels some remorse.

The problem is that you still expect an apology. An apology *would* be the right thing for her and her daughter to offer, but not because you demand it. No one wants to be told what to do. It has to come from them by their own free will. They may or may not have the integrity to do the right thing. What can you do about that? You will only cause rifts if you expect others to live up to your expectations and by your principles.

She felt judged because you said her laughing at her daughter's comment was disrespectful. You were right, but people do not like it when another person calls them out on their bad behavior. A humble person might apologize. A prideful one will get defensive.

In a way, everyone has the right to think, feel and believe as he chooses without the approval of others.

The right thing for you to do is to let this go and do not demand an apology. Say that you very much appreciate her talking it over with her daughter, thank you. And that you're sorry for how this situation got out of hand, and that you all are grateful for being a part of this loving family. That's really the most important thing to preserve more than pride.

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Lori Phillips
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#792262 - 11/11/12 05:18 AM Re: sister defensive when told about disrespectful kid [Re: chiak]
Lori-Dreams Offline
BellaOnline Editor
Chipmunk

Registered: 07/27/12
Posts: 1963
I have to share something with you about swallowing pride. It is not easy. And there *are* times when you should defend what is right at all costs. But this isn't one of them.

I recall going over to my boyfriend's house where the extended family was invited to watch a boxing match. One of the women screamed out a horrible obscenity along with a unacceptable (in my eyes) racist label. I was shocked. Actually, I was outraged! But I knew that by coming out with my feelings, it would cause a huge family uproar. I left the room instead and heard the lady say, "What's wrong with her?"

I should have asked, "What is wrong with YOU?!?!" Any reasonably decent person would know not to say such degrading things about another person just because of his race.

I knew that no matter what I said, I would not change that person's opinion, only deepen it. It would take education, life experience with members of this race or an act of God to change this woman's mind.

I let it go. I let it go with a feeling of pity for this small-minded, sad, wretched woman. If I demanded an apology, she never would have given it anyway.

Some people won't use this lifetime to grow much. frown


Edited by Lori-Dreams (11/11/12 05:19 AM)
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Lori Phillips
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#792263 - 11/11/12 05:30 AM Re: sister defensive when told about disrespectful kid [Re: chiak]
Nina - Siblings Offline

BellaOnline Editor
Amoeba

Registered: 12/03/07
Posts: 71
I think it's a good sign that this type of communication is happening. Since your sister-in-law has admitted that she feels judged by the two of you and does not like it, perhaps you can equate her emotions to your own. You husband has already let her know that he didn't mean to be judgmental, but also let her know that because of her reaction (the laughter) you both felt judged (and disrespected) by her. It would be appropriate for him to ask her if that is what she intended.

She has already talked to her daughter and has relayed that her daughter feels bad. It seems as if your sister-in-law had an emotional outburst, but she's trying to correct the situation, otherwise she would have never addressed it with her daughter.

Hang in there. Reconciliation can be slow, but I have hope for you guys!
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