Ask ARP: How can I stop my child’s father from teaching him the n-word?

Dear Anti-Racist Parent,

I have a 17-month old son with my ex-boyfriend, who is now my best friend. We all live together. My ex is Hispanic and I am white. My son looks like me but has a darker complexion like his dad.

Here is my problem: my ex likes to think and say that he is black. Actually he says he’s a “n**ger” In fact, the n-word is one of his favorite words. He says it ALL the time. He says he’s going to teach his son “how to be black,” etc.

The obvious problem first of all is that my ex and our son are clearly not black (and clearly not white- they look hispanic). I have asked my ex repeatedly not to use the n-word around our son and not to teach him to use it because one day he will use it in public and people will get upset. My son won’t understand because if he says the n-word in the presence of his father he will receive great praise (this hasn’t happened yet- I just know that it will). But I also know that I will be the visible parent in his life- the one dropping him off at school, bringing him to playdates, etc. So the half-hispanic kid with the white mom is running around saying n-this and n-that… it’s going to get him into trouble, right?

My ex has made it pretty clear that he has every intention of teaching the word to our son and promoting its use. How do I adequately teach my son that something his father holds in such high regard is actually a very ugly word that can get him into a lot of trouble? How do I counteract what his dad is teaching him? And if I can’t, how do I explain this to other parents? Usually I don’t think about it too much because my son is so young, but when I do stop to think about it, it really stresses me out. Any thoughts/advice would be appreciated.

From Molly

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