I definitely dread the upcoming holidays; it’s the worst time of the year. And I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a family that wants me to attend dinners and gatherings. But I can’t imagine anything worse than being there.
Every time I gather with my family, I cringe in discomfort at the casual racism they display. I won’t go into the disgusting details, but every word they say is steeped in some kind of prejudice.
They make terrible jokes about people of color, and when I try to ask them to stop—at least out of respect for me—it only seems to embolden them more. It’s like they take pleasure in my disgust.
After years of trying to simply ignore their behavior, I decided this would be the year I put my foot down.
Dear Jane, My family always tells disgusting racist jokes, so this year I am refusing to attend Thanksgiving. But now my mother is furious with me and says I’m ruining the holiday
When my mother reached out to ask Thanksgiving plans, I just told her I couldn’t make it. I didn’t tell her why because I knew it would cause more drama and I didn’t want what they always call my “sensitivity” to become a bigger problem in my family.
But when I told my mother I couldn’t be there for the holidays, she panicked. She started crying and told me that we don’t know how many more Thanksgivings we will have as a family, and that she feels personally offended by my behavior.
How can I make her realize that it’s our family that’s driving me away and that I’m not the bad guy here? I hate my family for portraying me as the bad guy when they are the ones who have shown such disgusting bigotry.
Dear Untied family,
First of all, I’m so sorry that your family finds this kind of humor funny, and especially that they seem to enjoy your discomfort.
International bestselling author Jane Green offers sage advice on DailyMail.com readers’ most burning issues in her column Dear Jane agony aunt
I’m proud of you for setting a boundary and telling them you won’t be there for the holidays, which is absolutely the right thing to do.
Your mother’s panic is fairly predictable for anyone who isn’t used to boundaries being set; they will do anything in their power to return to the status quo, which usually means belittling, angering, crying, etc.
In other words, your mother’s reaction to you setting boundaries is completely normal.
But you’ve now set that boundary, which is a brave and brilliant thing to do, and you have to hold that boundary if you want anything to change.
You can’t make her realize she’s part of the problem by doing what you’ve always done; Clearly telling her hasn’t changed anything.
Your boundary means telling her by your absence. Maybe it will work, and they will realize that having you there is more important than making their racist jokes – which won’t change, by the way.
Casual racism is unacceptable in any form, but the least they should do to ensure your attendance is to curb it while they are around you.
Or maybe they will choose to continue what they are doing, trying to make you feel guilty for choosing not to be there.
Please write down your feelings in a letter to your mother, explaining how you feel in a way she can read and reread. Your family may find it funny and fun, knowing how it provokes you, and you should make it clear what you will and will not tolerate.
The only way they are likely to change their behavior is if you enforce this boundary, and I applaud your strength in doing so.
I hope you get your favorite people together for a friendsgiving, or get an invite to a Thanksgiving with people you love, both of which are excellent alternatives.
If your mother keeps trying to make you feel guilty, instead of falling for her bait, find a phrase that works and repeat it ad infinitum until she stops.
Something like, “I’m sorry you feel personally offended, but I have to do what’s right for me,” or, “That may be true, but I can’t come unless the racist jokes stop.”
I wish you much happiness and a wonderful Thanksgiving.