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In-laws ignore my race - Page 2

post #21 of 55
It's not always a matter of race, though. Both my ex and I are white, but of different cultural heritages. My family has always done a lot of "ethnic" stuff in terms of food, holidays, etc. The in-laws were always invited. Sometimes they came, sometimes not. But I always heard about how "weird" the things we did were. And, interestingly enough, they're not American.

People from all cultures and heritages can be ignorant of, biased against and disinterested in anything different.
post #22 of 55
There are many people in this country who are afraid of any differences and just want everyone "assimilated" into the mainstream culture.
Is this what your IL's are like- as in they don't care what country your family comes from as long as you completely assimilate into their culture?
We recently moved to Texas (not a good move) and I've noticed this phenomenon. There is zero interest expressed in my dh's/son's cultural/racial background. There is an intolerance of questioning any of the Texan cultural values/ways. It feels like the most ignorant, oppressive place to live. And I say that knowing that many places in the states are like this.

The other thing that can occur (as many have expressed already) is how white people are so afraid to discuss race because they're terrified of being viewed as "racist". I can have such open discussions with our Asian friends about race, but if I try to bring up any issue or story (however benign and innocent) white people automatically freeze up.
Maybe part of it is that they don't want there to be differences. maybe growing up being told that their culture/race is bad and oppressive, defining an "other" means that they are potentially the "aggressor".

It can be simple or complicated.
I find it oppressive and ridiculous that issues of race and culture are so taboo, though. How can anything be understood and dealt with if you can't discuss it?
post #23 of 55
Originally Posted by hparsh View Post
I think sometimes that whites are afraid to acknowledge race for fear of being thought of as racist.
I'm White, and my husband is chinese and was born and raised in Taiwan. I find that white people are either soooo afraid of raising offense that they pretend they are color blind, or they are total bone heads and make jokes and ask questions that are completely rude. OR they will sit there and make fun of a 3rd party race. I think There is racist, a little bit racist but trying very hard not to be (those are the people who pretend to be color blind) and not racist. But the actual not racist is so hard to come by! And communities that are mostly white are the worst!

There are those friends of my husband who spent some time in taiwan and feel that because they spent time there, and know what they are talking about, they can make fun of Taiwanese cultures right in front of him!
post #24 of 55
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post

I've read or overheard many people of other races complaining about even "enlightened" comments from white people, saying that white people don't have a clue or don't have a right to talk about it.

This exactly is what I was thinking why some white/cacausion(sp?) people avoid talking about it. Then when they do not bother to ask, they are now not interested enough. It must be confusing for them knowing when they can and can't talk/ask questions. Even if they are asking a ignorant question so what some people really don't know, or are clueless because of how they were raise, just gently educate them, that is all some want.

Some people don't know how to approach different raciest and they could go to eighter extremies - not be interested, ask offended stuff or make offended jokes.

BTW, I am bi-racial and from a small island in the USVI. And have gotten some funny comments questions - like do you wear grass skirts(some asked a friend of mine this from the states), do you have to take a boat to get your food or go to the grocery(this was from someone in Puerto Rico). I just have to laugh it off and give them the correct answers.
Not to mention my boss use to try and make jokes with me that my GREEN CARD is expired, and then I have to burst his bubble and tell him I don't need one since I am from the USVI, it took a few more of those jokes before he thought before he spoke, he is white, and I was NOT offended AT ALL. I know it was just a joke and I laugh about it also.
I don't care personally if people ask me questions, I enjoy enlighting people if they are curious. DH is from Trinidad and we cook dishes for people that want to know about his island and their foods.
post #25 of 55
Originally Posted by hparsh View Post
I'm Asian and DH is white. His family has always been kind to me and has never made my race an issue. It's almost as if they don't acknowledge that I'm Asian, KWIM? I think they like to believe that they are color blind or that race doesn't matter. Well, it matters to me. I completely embrace my heritage and am proud of it, and I wish they would show some interest in it as well. They act like my Asian-ness is invisible to them.

I live in the Midwest in a community that is 90% white, so I just feel so ... alone sometimes. I will even make Asian jokes sometimes to "remind" them that I'm Asian, but they give me a blank stare. I think sometimes that whites are afraid to acknowledge race for fear of being thought of as racist. I love to hear about people's heritage and culture, whether they are Asian, Italian, black, or Arab (there's a sizable Arab population not too far from here).

Has anyone else experienced this?
I am a black american, my husband is a white american. I've often felt like my white in-laws ignore my race. I had to "remind" them that I am black when Don Imus and his cohort called a collegiate women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos" My b-i-l didn't understand why people were upset by the comments, so I wrote a piece about some experiences I had to give him an idea. I emailed it to him, his wife, my m-i-l and f-i-l.

The parents called a family meeting, because my piece caused hurt feelings and made them feel like they were racists (I never called any one of them racists, I'd like to say). I heard all the we love yous, we don't see race, we have friends of all races and nationalities. I was told the next time I disagree with something someone says, I shouldn't write about it, I should talk about it then and there. I left the in-laws house feeling like I had done something wrong. The saddest part is that my husband and his step-brother aren't friends like they once were because of this.

We've since moved to a large city with a diverse population and so I don't feel so invisible any more.
post #26 of 55
My SIL is Asian she rawks I love her to death.

We live very far apart (she is in NY and we are in MN)

But our family has always been big into hearing about her customs. We don't make a point to point out hey your asian! but we love talking about Korea and all the cool stuff there and her language and her plans to bring her children up with English and Korean.

My family is very blended, Only 2 of us kids are white the rest are black/white.

My ex husband is Chinese and they hated talking about it. If I asked a question about customs or Chinese tradition they would pretty much stare right through me and ignore me or act insulted that they are Americans now. But it was never my intent to upset them. They where very uppity as far as people go, and thats why they are my ex dh, and in laws lol
post #27 of 55
Originally Posted by hparsh View Post
I've even thought of giving the nieces and nephew on his side money in a little red envelope for Chinese New Year (a tradition in our family), just for fun, but then thought to myself, why would I do that?
BECAUSE, this is exactly the prime way to introduce your traditions into the family!!!! YES you should do this, the kids would love it, it would grab their interest and it would educate in a fun way..

who cares what they think??? you need to be you no matter how different it is for them.....

I am an outsider in my choice not to vaccinate, and while I am selective now about who I share that with (because i found it to be a waste of breath and time to tell tons of people), I didnt used to be... and while it was scary, it felt great to be different...... I LOVE different, my son is like the only 2nd grader in his school with long hair.... my kids are prolly the only ones in our school that are not vaccinated....

While being different can be scary it can also be a great way to educate others. YOu have to be who you are... and sometimes the more people learn about your differences, the more they are willing to share with you THEIR differences... this is what I have found.

I know it sounds like they aren't interested and maybe "they" (the mil, the adults??) aren't, but you can absolutely grab the interest of the kids and educate them, teach them and that can be a great part of your son learning and having his culture in his life.

I know we were all very pleased when my friends wife introduced us to Totoro!!! My kids LOVE that cartoon!! We had Kiki's Delivery Service but I didnt realize that there were more!!

I am white and I have to say that I am very interested in other cultures. I live in an area that is mostly white and I love to watch programs on television about other cultures. I dont believe that the color of ones skin makes you better or worse, but when you dont live in an area that is highly mixed, or when you arent a minority, you dont know how to approach differences, except to ignore it!!!! I mean really, i dont KNOW what to say, what to ask... when I say things to one of my white friends, she is aghast and im like, well i guess i better not say that in front of my lesbian friend because maybe she would be offended?? I DONT KNOW!! It doesnt matter what the difference is, but because race and sexual preference are such highly charged subjects and you dont know how that particular person is feeling, or how that person has been treated or whether or not maybe they have something against me for being a straight, white female in a mostly white anglo saxon populated area....... how do I know that my questions arent offensive?? My interest is always there, but its rare that people just start talking about those things because they dont know how I feel! ITs horrible, it really is. I hate it... I sometimes just want to say, I just LOVE the color of your daughters skin!!! or She has the most beautiful Asian features!!! or Im so glad that you felt comfortable enough with me to share with me that you are a lesbian, I think its wonderful that you are being true to yourself and we need more people like you around here!!!

Seriously? I think people would write me off as having bad taste, tell me off, or laugh in my face...

I was watching a show last night about celebrity baby nurseries (yes I was, guilty pleasure), and one of the rooms had a beautiful wall mural and it happened to be a black family and on the wall were brown skinned fairies and angels... i noticed. But when the lady that was talking about the room mentioned them as "brown skinned fairies and angels" I immediately was shocked, until I realized the lady that was talking was in fact brown skinned herself and I seemed to feel better about it... why is that?
post #28 of 55
I'm a white person who grew up in the midwest and was exposed to racist attitudes. I am terrified that people will take something I say the wrong way and accuse me of being racist so I do go out of my way to avoid mentioning race at all. It also doesn't often occur to me that culture and ethnicity is important to others because I have none myself. When I've asked relatives where our family comes from they all say "Ummm... I dunno.... Europe somewhere?"
post #29 of 55
I'm on the other side, my IL hate that I'm NOT white and I feel like I somehow infected their perfect white family. I'm not sure which is better.
post #30 of 55
"It also doesn't often occur to me that culture and ethnicity is important to others because I have none myself."

White folks from America have culture too. You may not have specific ethnic food or religious traditions from europe, but you are far from culture-less. In fact, I'm sure large swaths of the world would (due to American TV, movies, music, books, clothing and food being imported abroad) view your culture as being one of the world's most dominant.
post #31 of 55
i did not read through the whole thread, but wanted to share with you abt my best friend... she grew up in paris with an american mom and an egyptian dad. she grew up speaking english at home but french out of the home. she now lives in israel. she and her canadian husband speak a combo of french and english to each other but for the first 6ish months of her oldest dds life she spoke only english to her. now she speaks french to her kids and her dh speaks english to them. it was hard at first to swich but she is glad she did. if you want your son to feel vietnamese i think you are going to have to put effort into it. speaking the language will give him acccess to so much of the culture that he can acquire on his own and not via you. if you want to, i'd encourage you to start speaking vietnamese to your son. he will pick up quickly. and you probably wont regret it. but you might regret it if you dont.

re your inlaws: i try not to have expectations of my inlaws... then you cant be disapointed.
post #32 of 55
My family is in MI and the first time I brought now DH home (13+ years ago) they kept asking him if he wanted rice!?! And they kept asking about his family, when they came over, how was the resettlement process, etc. DH barely speaks Vietnamese and doesn't remember anything about Viet Nam or resettlement or even starting school in America. Anyway, I don't think my family is racist, just interested in similarities and differences but boy was I embarrassed even knowing my family would be curious I didn't think they would keep asking about rice. Communication is key though. When I told them DH like to eat (and cook) pasta too they nodded, thought about it, then told him that THEY could not go a whole week without eating pasta so they wanted him to be comfortable as a visitor and thus thought he would want rice more often. We explained we would eat that when we went back to So CA but wanted Italian food in Detriot then they understood!

Anyway, I think the red envelopes would be good and like the idea of having a Tet party.

Also, if they are "art" people or book lovers maybe you could share on that level. Then if they change the subject I guess you'll know they really are not interested in your culture.

We are in Houston now and not all of Texas is intolerant. Here I feel like everyone is accepted for the most part even (or expecially) by "cowboys" maybe because there are few "native" Houstonians but even those I've met have been welcoming. Even to DH but maybe only because he shares the name of a famous football player -- and football really is bigger in TX!
post #33 of 55
This is really interesting. I don't have time to read the whole thread, but I wanted to put in my experience:

I am basically "white," as far as my cultural practices and lifestyle and everything. However my ancestry is in the UK (Irish and Wales, and probably others) and Native American (Choctaw). Even though my skin is the typical beige/peach color, my features confuse people. I've been asked if I am Asian, Latin, and even Black. The guy at the post office looked at me and said, "Se habla Espanol?" Luckily I knew what that meant, thanks to college Spanish!

I have never found any inquiries on my heritage to be offensive. Actually I enjoy the opportunity to talk about it. I feel flattered that people find me "exotic" in appearance.

I feel a little remiss that I don't know more about my own ancestors, but my family is just so disconnected from all of it. My grandfather had the Native American blood, but by the time I was old enough to have any interest in it, he had developed Alzheimer's.

Anyway, I am sure that anyone in a minority race in the US has a different perspective, but that's my two cents.
post #34 of 55
Originally Posted by hparsh View Post
... I think sometimes that whites are afraid to acknowledge race for fear of being thought of as racist...
oh this is so true!
I totally love to hear and learn and experience other cultures. LOVE. It's all so interesting and wonderful to me, but it's also very scary to think that I might offend someone accidentally. I've moved around a bit and have experienced people believing that I am certainly racist and derogatory of their existence simply because they're not "white," when the reality is that I am totally interested in and admiring of their particular culture. So I don't say anything. I act like NOTHING is different. if I feel comfortable enough I'll sometimes mention how wonderful I think something is - food, or a particular location or something to do with their culture but it can be nerve wracking. You just don't want to offend!
post #35 of 55
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post
I'm white, and I can tell you this is true (not for all of us obviously, but in general).

And not only that, but also (speaking for myself) I feel awkward talking about race just because I feel anxious about how any talk I'd have would be received, even beyond the "racist" label. Being white in the US means being almost without a race at all, since it's the "default." I've read or overheard many people of other races complaining about even "enlightened" comments from white people, saying that white people don't have a clue or don't have a right to talk about it.

I am white, and this rings true to me. I never mention a persons race for fear of being called a racist, making them feel different, or being made feel really bad for even noticing the skin color or race was not white. I am sometimes less than elequent so I am terrified of something coming out wrong so I never talk race/culture that is different from mine. Same goes with political beliefs and religious beliefs different from mine. I just don't want to offend those that I care about.

If you feel that is the case with your IL's, bring it up to them. It would set MY mind at ease. They may feel like it is an off limits conversation as they do not want to hurt you in any way.
post #36 of 55
OP: Do they show an interest in you otherwise? Do they respond when you tell them news about your day, or what your hobbies are, or anything like that?

The reason I ask is because I have met people who simply DO NOT know how to respond when you tell them anything about yourself. They are pleased as punch to tell you about themselves, but have no clue as to how to be interested in other people about anything.
post #37 of 55
Originally Posted by Dahlea View Post
I'm on the other side, my IL hate that I'm NOT white and I feel like I somehow infected their perfect white family. I'm not sure which is better.
option 3--you being of another race rocks because you can share new stuff with the family

lots better than hatred (your experience) or indifference (OP's experience)

Hparsh, you totally need to a Tet party--and post pictures!

Also any chance you could visit a town with a big university? They often have more diverse populations and will do culture festivals and such. Might give you a chance to get a breather from being "the only one".

Your in-laws are confusing to me, I'd be driving you crazy with questions and requests for recipes and horribly accented Vietnamese greetings that I made you teach me, etc, etc

Edited to add because Mizelenius made excellent points:
Only as far as you showed signs of wanting to share your culture.
post #38 of 55
While it's not the same thing, my ILs have done this to my BIL's wife I think. They are Catholic, and she is Greek Orthodox. They've basically just ignored it, but she decided to include everyone is her family's celebration of Greek Easter this past year and I think the ILs gained a new understanding of her religion and culture.

I wonder if you invited them over for a traditional meal, and/or celebrated the holidays of your native country with them, would they be interested?
post #39 of 55
Those of you who are white and afraid of being considered racist . . .IME, this helps:
(1) If someone else brings up their culture, then I view it as an invitation to ask some questions, get more info, while bearing in mind that, of course, everyone is an individual.
(2) Don't assume that someone's race "matches" what you would suspect is their culture.
(3) When a POC brings up racism, do not ever pretend to understand. I don't think any other experience would begin to compare.
post #40 of 55
my mil ignored the fact that i was latina for a while in our relationship, and during one of her visits, i decided to make a traditional panamanian meal for her, and explained it and some of the influences, but i just sort of talked about it like i would any other recipe. she just doesn't seem interested in talking about my mother's culture, per se, but the food was a safe way for us to talk about it without getting really deep.

our last visit (this past week) i was singing to my daughter in spanish, and she remarked to my husband, "just look at how she lights up when she hears her mommy sing that song to her." and she asked me a few days later if i was speaking spanish to my daughter. and when i said i try to, she said, that's good for her to know. it was a real step. maybe the way is to cook, as thao suggested, and let the food do some talking.
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