Ask ARP: How do I respond to a sister who demeans my biracial daughter?

Dear Anti-Racist Parent,

I have a problem.  I have a beautiful 22-month-old daughter who is biracial.  Since she has been born, my sister has gradually stopped spending time with me and my daughter and I have recently found out that she (and her boyfriend) are limiting their daughter’s “exposure” to my biracial daughter.  She stated that they are employing “out of sight out of mind” so if their daughter does not see my daughter then she will not be “exposed to the product of an interracial relationship.”  This has divided our entire family and will probably end our relationship.  Any suggestions?

Tanya J.

From the Editor:

My heart goes out to you. I wish I could say that reactions like your sister’s are a rarity, but a quick read over posts and comments at ARP sadly tell a different story.

It is terrible that your sister and her boyfriend hold bigoted views. And it is regrettable that your daughter may not have the opportunity to form close ties with her aunt and first cousin. I know it must hurt that a sibling would let racial hatred outweigh the family bond. Should you try to change your sister’s mind? I imagine if it were my sister I couldn’t help trying. I wouldn’t want to see a family member constrained by racism, living life not knowing the joy of connecting with people of different races. Only you know whether listening to reason from you and other family members might eventually change your sister’s views. People do learn and grow.

Your sister’s development aside, though. She is an adult. But your daughter is a child and her well being is paramount. Children deserve to be protected from situations that damage self worth, attack racial identity, and reinforce racial biases and hatred. Unfortunately, that sometimes means protecting them from the people who should love them the most–family members. You don’t say whether your sister and her boyfriend express their biases in front of your child, but I can’t imagine that someone with such strong views is able to hide them well. At this time, I think you owe it to your daughter to limit her exposure to your sister and her boyfriend.

Your sister made a choice–a bad one–in what she feels is the best interest of her child. The irony is that it is your sister and her boyfriend that are the bigger threats to the emotional health of your child and theirs.  You cannot shield your niece from her parents, but you can make sure your own child is not poisoned by this madness.

Readers?

Do you have a dilemma for Anti-Racist Parent to tackle? Send it to team@loveisntenough.com.

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About Tami

Tami Winfrey Harris writes about race, feminism, politics and pop culture at the blog What Tami Said. Her work has also appeared online at The Guardian’s Comment is Free, Ms. Magazine blog, Newsweek, Change.org, Huffington Post and Racialicious. She is a graduate of the Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism. She is mom to two awesome stepkids and spends her spare time researching her family history and cultivating a righteous 'fro.
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