Dear Amy: About two years ago, my husband started using the “N-word” (we are white).
He mainly used this word when watching something that upsets him or when he would drink. You get the picture.
He is now upset because some of the family (and I) say that using the N-word makes him look racist.
He says it’s just a word, and it’s OK because he used it all the time when he lived in California with his Black friends and that they all just said it, no matter what race they were referring to.
We argue about this, and he defends his past behavior, no matter my opinion.
He has mostly stopped using the word after I made a huge issue about it. Occasionally, he will say it when he is mad about a certain person on the news or politician and it’s loud enough that our daughter can hear.
Dear Disgusted: Using the “N-word” doesn’t make your husband “look” racist.
It makes your husband an actual racist.
According to you, he only evokes the word when he is mad at or hates something or someone. But this is a case where context doesn’t even matter.
Racists seem to enjoy declaring that the “N-word” – or other racial or ethnic slurs – are “just words,” but for some reason they never seem to use slurs directed at themselves.
Dear Amy: My husband has two siblings and several nieces and nephews.
His brother’s daughter – our niece – is pregnant and everyone is genuinely excited about the baby.
Our issue is that a few years ago my very generous and kind father-in-law (her grandfather) gave her funds to attend college.
We don’t know how long or how successful she was with her college, but eventually she stopped going and dropped out.
Somehow this became a sore spot, and she refused to communicate any longer with her grandfather.
She has not spoken to him in well over a year.
This had to be hurtful for him – at 97 years old.
He has been generous and supportive to all his children and grandchildren and has never interfered in anyone’s life.
We are appalled by her behavior.
I have been invited to her baby shower and have been given a list of specific items from which to choose with instructions that we need to choose from the list (many of them out of our budget).
My husband and I do not care to support her because of this rift.
We think she is out of line and acting immature.
We are torn because my husband’s brother (her dad) has always been kind and supportive to our son and I would like to show respect and support for him.
I know her grandfather wants to give her something; he still loves her and always will.
Should we send a gift?
– Concerned Aunt
Dear Concerned: The way I read your question, you would prefer not to recognize or celebrate your niece, out of solidarity to her grandfather.
You can ghost this niece, or gripe about her too-expensive shower registry, but when you withdraw from her, you are then perpetuating HER poor behavior.
Her grandfather’s expectations made her uncomfortable, and so she responded by withdrawing from him, with no explanation.
Her expectations make you uncomfortable, and you are responding by withdrawing from her, with no explanation.
This is how longstanding generational estrangements take hold.
I suggest that you disconnect her previous objectionable behavior from her pregnancy.
Find an item on her registry that you can afford (or send her something off the registry) to congratulate her on her pregnancy.
Your husband should ask his brother if there are ways you two might help to encourage a healing connection between your niece and her grandfather.
At the end of the day, her relationship with him is her responsibility to manage – and you should not judge or interfere, unless you are invited to.
Dear Amy: The letter from “Too Controlling?” regarding bribing a young person not to get a tattoo reminded me: When my now 40-year-old son was turning 16, he asked to get his ear pierced for his birthday.
As I have pierced ears, I saw no reason to say no. My mother was horrified and told him she’d get him anything else he wanted if he didn’t do it. He thought for a moment and responded, “a tattoo.”
Needless to say, he had his ear pierced. And I was very proud of him.
– Nancy, in Englewood, NJ
Dear Nancy: Smart kid!
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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