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Confronting Racism

I have a family member who seems to harbor a racist attitude. How do I respond when I hear this person make thinly veiled racist statements?

These comments probably reflect what this family member considers “normal,” “what everyone knows,” or wishes were true. At some level, this family member is protecting how he or she sees the world—what he or she needs to be true. Otherwise, this person may have to ask life-changing questions and make equally radical changes.

Does this person make these statements during one-on-one conversations? If so, that’s the time to challenge this vicious distortion of Christ’s message and common decency. If the setting is more public, you need to decide: Is it more painful for me to challenge such statements or to appear to endorse them by not saying anything? In extreme cases, silence implies consent. At Mass, we ask pardon for our sins “in what I have done or in what I have failed to do.”

Be prepared: Your first private or public challenge will probably not result in this relative taking back the offensive statement. You, however, have to live with your silence or challenge; you don’t have to live with racist statements constantly. Coraggio (courage)—as Italians say!


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