When the hell did my mom become a racist? (Now with text!)

I made a big mistake last night. I got in a discussion about the middle East with my mom. See, CNN was on, talking about the latest round of suicide bombings in Israel, and what the US should be doing about the situation. My mom’s solution? “Looks like we need to start the Holocaust over again.” After she’d scraped my jaw off the floor and restarted my heart, she explained that she was “just kidding.” :rolleyes:

I should have learned my lesson by now, especially after our discussions on “Why blacks never make good executives,” and “Why you should never trust a Filipino.” Dammit, these arguments never resolve anything, they just leave me in a quivering puddle of impotent rage. Why? Because no matter what I say, she responds, “Well, you’ll learn different when you’re older.” Older? I’m twenty-six! How much older do I have to get before I turn into the bitter, spiteful antithesis of everything I value? Do I get a free membership in the Aryan Nation when I join AARP?

I swear to God, she didn’t used to be like this. When I was a kid, she never said or did anything remotely biggoted. She never used the word “nigger” (and oh, how I long for those days). She never spoke derogativly about Jews. Hell, for three years running she enrolled me in the summer camp run by the Marin Jewish Community Center, because all my friends went there, and because it was the best summer camp in our price range.
What the hell happened to that woman? What happened to the intelligent, fair-minded, deeply liberal woman who used to be my mom? When did she turn into Eva Braun?

What really scares me is, what if she’s right? What if I do “learn different?” She did. Race is genetic; what about racism? When I’m fifty, will I find myself complaining about how many blacks win Oscars? (Actual quote: “They already have sports, why do
they need movies, too?”) I guess I’m just lucky she didn’t say shit like this when I was a kid. Who knows what kind of a racist asshole I might have grown into?

Oh, I know what you are going through. I have learnt to just NOT have discussions with my parents about Aboriginal affairs, refugees, boat people etc. etc.

Yet these are the same people who accept my Japanese husband and his family with open arms. These are the same people who criticised my grandmother for being shocked that I was going to marry a Japanese man.

We are NOT doomed to be our parents. A friend of my father’s is a racist, and he admits it. But he is DETERMINED that his son won’t be. He is VERY careful with any comments he makes about people who aren’t from his cultural background.

I don’t know how that will work, but at least he’s trying.

As for your mum, I don’t think there is much you can do, except maybe avoid topics that you know will upset you.

I hope someone comes along with better advice :slight_smile:

I feel your pain, Miller. I said something to my mother about abortion last year and the things that came out of her once liberal mouth were shocking. I think she must have fallen asleep next to a pod sometime during the late 90’s.

I want my real mom back! :mad:

Miller , is it possible your mother is ill? When was the last time she saw a doctor? Maybe these changes in her are the subtle result of some sort of illness, either mental or neurological, especially if they seemed to develop suddenly.

What Baker said.

Sudden changes are often symptoms of physical and/or mental disease.

Having no first-hand experience, I hesitate to mention it (asbestos is my friend), but maybe menopause?

I would like to echo the comments of some posters who have suggested that your mother may be ill. It is my understanding (and my direct experience) that weird bouts of racism are often one indication of impending dementia, as are other forms of aggressive or contrarian behaviour. She may lash out in other ways too. I think your mother should see a doctor.

As others have said, take your Mom to a doctor.

At the same time my Grandmother was the nicest, sweetist racist you could ever meet. My Grandma and I had arguements about her beliefs and I finally gave up.

I want to be clear about this, my Grandma was not a hateful person. She just grew up in a world where the lines between people were cut in stone and could not be breached. For example, my Grandma lived next to a black couple. They got along wonderfully, yet, if I were to date a black girl my Grandma would have freaked out. Her attitude was that of ‘Birds of a feather’. In her world view Blacks went with Blacks, Whites went with Whites, Catholics went with Catholics and Jews went with Jews. You get the idea. She could, and would, be friends with others outside her ‘group’ yet she wouldn’t accept anything more than friendship. In her view you shouldn’t mix groups.

She grew up in a very different world and, at the time, that’s the way the world worked. I am glad that the world has changed. At the same time I can understand how she came to her world view. She believed what she believed not out of hate but out of what was “Right” due to what she was taught.


Dementia? Good lord, no. She’s not that old, has a thriving career (in management, no less), and she knows not to talk this way to people who aren’t blood relatives. I think she should probably see a therapist, though. Her stress levels are astronomical. I think (hope) she’s just venting job-related frustrations. She works in Oakland, and is constantly tip-toeing through a racial land mine in her office, and is just blowing off steam at home. And she knows it’ll get a rise out of me. But, Jesus, it’s ugly, and makes me incredibly uncomfortable to hear her say these things.

Same thing happened to my mom. She wasn’t racist at all when I was growing up, always taught her children that race didn’t matter, that all people were the same, etc. Once she got up in her 50s I started noticing her developing more racist attitudes, most based on her observations as an apartment complex manager. Not all of her new prejudices were the negative sort - for instance, she really likes Mexicans, says they work hard, are polite, and keep their houses very clean. She does have some negative opinions of black people, though. Not all of them, but she’s developed some prejudices, probably because most of the black people in the complex she managed were on housing and were pretty much just living off the system and causing trouble. I don’t think she would have ever developed these prejudices if she lived in a more affluent area.

A Neo-Conservative is a liberal that has had to actively deal with the real world.

I also think that Miller’s last post is probably close to the mark. His mother needs to let off some steam. She knows that she has raised him to have the right values and so she isn’t going to corrupt him. He just needs to lighten up a bit and not let his bowels get in such an uproar.

What the…

Are you somehow claiming that racist == conservative?

Would you NOT “get your bowels in such an uproar” if your mom started cracking jokes about killing off jews?

I experienced a similiar thing with my dad. He’s always been pretty decent in this area, although he’s been an asshole in a lot of other ways. As a family, at his initiative, we’ve boycotted a local park/club thing that wouldn’t let minorities (especially black people) in. Yet, when I was at Best Buy, we were looking at dryers. He said that one was too expensive with the extended warranty. I said, rather flippantly, that if they guy on the piece of paper that described the warranty came with the dryer, it would be worth it. The guy was HOT.

My dad’s reaction:
“'He’s black.”

My reaction:
“. . .so?”

Apparently, he doesn’t want me to marry someone who’s black. Or, knowing him, any other minority. Yet this guy actively defends Muslims living in America, is against discrimination, is happy about the Oscars, etc. Weird.

Nice to know I’m not alone in this. At least you know where you stand with the radicals; not so with these hypocritical “closet-racists”.

Maybe I’M prejudiced but, I just dismiss racists as being inferior. I don’t hate a diabetic for having an inferior pancreas or an arthritic for having defective joints. Likewise, racists don’t spring out of environments full of reason and fairness but, a superior sort of person can come through a background of hatred and ignorance, trancend it and reach an enlightened attitude. Those that can’t deserve pity for thier inferiority and those that selectively hide thier views are doubly pathetic.

My parents seemed uneasy when I explained this to them. It’s one thing for your kids to disagree with what you say, even vehemently. It’s quite another for them to sigh and just walk away, shaking their heads sadly. :slight_smile:

Hmmm. I think people are more racist than they want to admit. It’s very easy to say you’re not racist if you live in a relatively monochrome community; there’s no racial conflict. When those people go into places where the colors mix, that’s where the test is. I’m freaked out by how racist I saw LA to be. Not blatantly racist, for the most part, but there are these psychological barriers people create. Even if they want to be “color blind,” it’s not possible, not 100% anyway. I don’t think there’s a problem with recognizing someone’s ethnic background. There is a problem when that background is automatically associated with “what’s wrong with this town.”

Yo’ mama…she’s probably not consciously racist. Maybe she works in a world that forces her to draw lines, and she deals with it by giving you black humour (ooh, bad pun, sorry).

There are some relatively non-racist people who don’t find certain races attractive for purely aesthetic reasons. It’s possible that’s all that was going on there - he just couldn’t see how someone found the guy attractive because his skin was dark, hair kinky, etc.

The very same thing is happening to my mother.
I don’t remember her ever being prejudiced before (she’s 58 now.)
She is an investor in a townhouse community that is being built, and I guess the North Atlanta area is becoming very racially diverse, which it was not at all when I lived there 12 years ago.
Anyway, when I went to see them last weekend, she talked about how “the Mexicans” that do a lot of the labor there are so wonderful, honest, and hardworking, and how “the Asians” are all rude, pushy, and try to negotiate prices that are not negotiable.
She also talks about real estate dabbling, and how it’s impossible to see a home that belonged to “the Indians” to anyone but other Indians, because all “their” houses stink of curry, etc. etc.
I was really horrified.
I would have had no problem if she had said “the Mexican guys who work at the complex are wonderful”
or even
“Every Asian prospective buyer we’ve had has been pushy, rude and obnoxious.”
but I am SO uncomfortable with lumping people as “the this group” or “the that group”.
I dunno. It seems so dehumanizing somehow, even if she’s making a positive statement.
I did ask her to relate these stories on a case-by-case basis,
and not via gross generalizations, especially since she was saying all this in front of my future mother in law. Great impression there, Mom.:rolleyes:

I’ll be honest. I don’t know where I stand on the issue of being racist. When I lived in San Francisco, I had black, greek, italian, irish, chinese, thai, and korean neighbors. The Asians kept to themselves and were definitely not very friendly. I took no personal issue with anyone else. But when I was in the Bay View district visiting a friend one day, I felt VERY out of place and uncomfortable. It’s not that the blacks were giving me dirty looks but I just felt out of place and I didn’t want to be there. I don’t get the same feeling when I am in an all Asian neighborhood though.

Now, I’m living on the Peninsula and like it here immensely, but still I want to move away to a nearly all white city up North. It looks like that will happen soon too. We’re gonna get a house here, hold it for two years and then move into Napa or Lake County. We both know we could get more house for our dollar if we were to move to the East Bay but alas, we don’t want to be surrounded by minorities.

Pesonally, I think I prefer blacks, asians, mexicans in small numbers, where my race is the majority, bottom line. I am quite sure that my more Liberal Friends would consider that to be a racists stance, but then again, i find most Liberals to be out of touch with reality.

Reality? What’s that?

Thirty-five years ago, my cousin married a black woman. His parents refused to meet with her or attend the wedding, etc. However, he diligently maintained contacts with them. After the first child was born, the parents finally relented and got to know her.

They became very close to her. So, in middle age my aunt and uncle’s racism got better.

Up your ass.