Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend’s Mother Is Racist”

I’ve been dating a guy for about a year, and the relationship is great. I like him a lot, his friends are cool, and he gets along well with mine. We’re both from the area that we live in now, and over the course of things, I’ve brought him to a few family events. He has a great time with most of my extended family, and they like him a lot, too. I’m really good friends with one of his cousins, and I’ve met some other younger members of his family (everything went swimmingly), but unfortunately, he’s been very hesitant to have me meet his mom, even though she lives just a few blocks away from him. I know why, too: she doesn’t like white people. This isn’t me making things up: he’s explained it all. She still asks him when he’ll be getting back together with the girl he dated before me — because she was black. I’d really like to meet her, and I know that I generally make good impressions on parents, but I also don’t want to cause any more stress than the issue is worth. My boyfriend and I are both young, and I don’t expect we’ll be getting married or anything … but it still bugs me that other girls (even platonic friends of ours!) get to be involved in his life in a way that I can’t, because of my race. This is pretty much the only area of our relationship where that fact that we’re interracial has had a negative effect. Do I push the issue to make a point, or should I just let it go? — The White Girlfriend

The best way to combat racism is to be the best person you know how to be and to represent yourself — and by extension, your race — proudly, confidently, and compassionately. To your question about whether you should push the issue or let it drop, my answer is “neither.” Instead, continue treating your boyfriend with respect and being a good girlfriend to him. That means trusting him to deal with bridging the gap between you and his mother. If he feels like it’s not the right time to introduce you to her, accept that he probably knows best, and that it’s in no way a reflection of his feelings for you or the state of your relationship. If anything, I’m sure he wants you to have a great relationship with his mom even more than you do, if for no other reason than to prove to her how wrong she’s been in her racism.

What’s important to keep in mind here is that your boyfriend hasn’t completely shut you out from meeting his family. Just the fact that he’s introduced you to more open-minded family members shows how much he values you and your relationship and wants you to be a part of all aspects of his life. And the thing that’s totally universal among all families, regardless of race of ethnicity, is that they talk. Gossip moves far more quickly through branches of a family tree than any lines of a grapevine. If you’re good friends with one of your boyfriend’s cousins and things have gone “swimmingly” with other family members you’ve met, you better believe his mother has heard an earful about how great you are and how happy you make her son. Keep being yourself and making inroads with them and my hunch is, if you stay with your boyfriend long enough, you and his mother will eventually have the opportunity to meet (either at a get-together hosted by someone else or through an introduction she finally insists on). If and when that happens, be kind and compassionate, treat her with respect, but don’t push. Let her come around to seeing you for who you are rather than the color of your skin. And if she doesn’t? Don’t take it personally. The issues she has have nothing to do with you.

In the meantime, continue enjoying your relationship with your boyfriend and try not to put too much emphasis on the whole family thing. There may come a time when you’re more serious and ready to move to a next chapter when having his family’s approval and acceptance of you will be more important. If and when that time comes, you may have to do some serious evaluating of just how important their approval is and whether not having it is a dealbreaker. But until then, continue building a strong foundation with your boyfriend so that if and when you’re faced with that decision, you have enough information to thoughtfully tackle it.

*Do you have a relationship/dating question I can help with? Send me your letters at [email protected]