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On Trying (And Failing) to Talk to My Mom About Race

My mother is visiting. My mother is like, the epitome of a generally well intentioned liberal white lady, and for the past several years I’ve been trying to talk to her about things like systematic racism and microaggressions, and it’s challenging (I’m in my early 30s and a few months ago she told me it had just occurred to her that I’m mixed race. Like, how could that have JUST occurred to you?) but she often seemed to be getting there.

So she’s visiting me this week for Passover and I was having brunch with a friend of mine and then had to pick my mom up from her friend’s and my friend came with me. As soon as we got there my mom says to my friend (who is a POC) “Where are you from? I mean what’s your heritage?” My friend tells her and my mom is like “Oh I said you were from [insert other country vaguely in the same area] and started telling her a story about someone she worked with from there who had been forced to marry a cousin twice her age. My mom’s friend was like “your people have such lovely coloring.” Later my mom was telling my friend about a family she knew (also from a country only vaguely in the same area where my friend’s parents are from) whose kids she tutored and the kid’s grandmother would cook such great food and then she started talking about how amazing it is when people from Asian and African countries squat over the pots they’re cooking in.


Like, it was... bad. I apologized to my friend for putting her in that situation and then tried to explain to my mom on the drive home why you shouldn’t ask people “where are you from?”, or associate them with food, or lump all cultures from neighboring countries together, etc. and she got really mad at me. And it’s so frustrating to run up against these walls where you know the other person doesn’t get it and will probably not get it.  

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