Monday, November 3, 2014

Is It Racism Or Paranoia?

Dear Tazi:

I think my father might secretly be racist.  I have been dating my boyfriend for about a year now, and decided it was finally time to introduce him to my parents, who live two hours away from me.  Although emails and pictures have been sent over the past eleven months, my parents have never met “Elmont” in person.  Elmont is a light-skinned black man, so it can be difficult to tell his race from pictures.  Since his race has never mattered to me, I never thought to mention to my parents that he is black.

Over the Labor Day weekend, Elmont and I took a trip back to my home to visit with my parents and have a meet and greet with the family.  My mother was her usual cordial self but my father was not.  Dad is normally a very welcoming person; he has a big Irish personality and is the kind of person who likes everybody and everybody likes.  This is why I was very surprised to see him greet Elmont with a handshake instead of a big hug.  His excuse was that he was coming down with a cold and did not wish to spread it, but I thought he looked fine.

That evening, after dinner, Dad did not offer Elmont a drink as is his custom when he and Mom host guests.  When I pulled him aside to ask why, Dad blamed his non-existent cold.  Although the conversation was polite, Dad seemed detached; he claimed it was the cold medicine he was taking. 

The next morning was Sunday, and Elmont and I had planned on taking Mom and Dad out for brunch but Mom said that my father was not feeling very well, and that perhaps brunch could wait until the next day.  Tazi, we had a barbecue to attend the next day; we didn’t want to make it a full day of eating and socializing so Elmont and I went to brunch by ourselves.  Later, my father told me that he was hurt that we did not want to wait a day to have brunch with him and my mother! 

On Labor Day, Elmont and I attended a barbeque with family and friends and everyone was happy to meet him.  I thought once my father saw how everyone loved Elmont that he would warm up to my boyfriend, but he claimed that he was not feeling well and left the party early; by the time Elmont and I returned from the party it was late and we had to start back home because we were working the next day.

At first I thought I was just being paranoid about my father’s coolness towards Elmont, but he mentioned to me that he thought my father did not like him.  After I got home I called my Mom to let her know that we were home safe, and I asked her how my father was.  Mom told me that Dad was “resting in front of the TV” and that the weekend had really worn him out.  Tazi, he didn’t do anything!  I asked Mom to put Dad on the phone so I could talk to him, and once again he seemed fine – no hint of a cold!

This week, when I spoke to my parents in my weekly phone call, I broached the idea about Elmont and I coming home for Thanksgiving, but Mom told me that she and Dad had plans!  They will supposedly be taking a four-day cruise with my aunt and uncle.  When I mentioned that Auntie and Uncle made no mention of the cruise on Labor Day my mother responded that Labor Day was when the plans were first made; that it was a last minute thing.  I feel like my parents made these plans just to avoid spending Thanksgiving with Elmont!  When I told my mother this, she was hurt that I could think such a thing and defended my Dad, saying he really was feeling under the weather.

Tazi, do you think I am being paranoid and hypersensitive, like my Mom says I am?  Or could my father be a closet racist, like Elmont and I are thinking?  I have never seen my father act this way before, but I also grew up in an exclusive, all-white neighborhood so I have no standard of reference by which to judge.

Signed,
Biracial Blues

Dear Biracial Blues:

Late August and early September is high time for ragweed allergies to make their appearance, making those susceptible feel horrible by turning them into an itchy, watery-eyed, sneezing mess.  Allergy medications and cough and cold syrups can help alleviate these symptoms so as to appear like nothing is wrong, but the side effects include lethargy.  If your father is one of millions who suffer from allergies this could explain his aberrant behavior. 

Although it seems deliberate that your parents have planned to be away for the Thanksgiving holiday, it is probably just a coincidence.  You do not say if you have siblings still living at or near home, but you do mention that you live two hours away from your parents and have not been home to visit in several months.  Your parents probably decided to plan some “me” time for the holidays and Thanksgiving was the logical choice; it is America’s busiest travel time of the year. 

I sympathize with you and Elmont; I cannot imagine what you have been through in the past that would make you jump to such drastic conclusions but it must not have been pleasant.  I suggest that you make a second attempt with your parents and Elmont.  You say that your mother was pleasant and welcoming of him, so I suggest you give her the benefit of the doubt when she says that your father was not feeling well.  If your father truly was racist, he would not have welcomed Elmont into his home; rather, he would have used his cold as an excuse to send you both to a hotel and cancel all plans to spend time with the two of you.  The fact that he was hurt that you would not reschedule brunch lends credence to this view.  If a second visit with your parents does not alleviate your uneasiness I suggest that you have a frank discussion of your concerns with dear old Dad!  You may or may not like what he has to say, but at least you will know where things stand.  Sometimes, it is what it is.

Snuggles,
Tazi


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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