Carolyn Hax: Bigoted father speaks now, possibly forever breaks the peace
Advice columnist Carolyn Hax and her readers discuss a father's bigoted reaction to his daughter's biracial marriage.
DEAR CAROLYN: My boyfriend of two years recently proposed. What I had expected to be a happy and exciting time has become discouraging and stressful due to an email from my father. He told me my fiancé and I didn't have the "right to pollute the gene pool with our biracial children," and that, though he knew I was a grown woman and could do as I pleased, it should be understood that he didn't approve.
During the entirety of my relationship, my father has never once stated his feelings on this issue — so I was somewhat shocked by his statement. Though not entirely surprised.
I want to respond by making it clear that while I've heard what he has to say, it changes nothing. I will marry this amazing man, and beyond this one email, I will not hear or respond to anything on the topic ever again. Right now my anger makes the calm demeanor needed to write these words rather hard to come by. Any suggestions?
— Papa Don't PreachDEAR PAPA: I'm so sorry for your loss. I know this implies a death, but in a way there has been one. Your relationship with your father now has a "before" and "after," and the "before" father is gone. That's a loss you're no doubt grieving.
As for your response, you've got the first part written: "I've heard what you have to say. I will marry this amazing man and ... will not hear or respond to anything on the topic ever again."
You'll notice "this changes nothing" is missing. It may not change your plans, but it profoundly changes your opinion of your dad, no?
If so, that's fair to say. "Sadly, this changes my opinion of you. I am ashamed of/disappointed in/(your words here) you. I never thought I'd have to say that." Use your own words, but make it clear what his bigotry has cost him.
RE: PAPA: My folks took exception to my girlfriend of another race. They were too refined to speak rudely but made their nonacceptance crystal clear via arch comments about how they'd always hoped they'd have a lot in common with their daughter-in-law and (their idea of a zinger), "You have to think about the children."
I ignored them and eventually married the girl, who became their favorite daughter-in-law and the mom of the grandkids of whom they are most proud. Within a few years of our marriage the folks came forth, shamefaced, with apologies — but I've always felt less of them for their racism. Such a shame.
— AnonymousDEAR ANONYMOUS: Yes; a shame, even in the best case. Thanks for writing in.
RE: PAPA: Wow; "pollute the gene pool." As the wife of one biracial person and (in an astonishing coincidence) the mother of another one, I'm shocked anyone still thinks that. She might also mention that, barring a complete change of heart, he's ruined any chance he has of a relationship with his future grandchildren.
— Anonymous 2DEAR ANONYMOUS 2: Agreed; though taking a hard line also would take away the surest path to redemption. The most powerful weapon against bigotry is love. His getting to know any grandkids is, see above, the best way to make him eat his words, and the ugliness that prompted them.
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