My Beautiful Boyfriend and My Racist Mother

Submit your questions for Dear Hoopers here 

Dear Hoopers,
I’ve been with my long-distance boyfriend for 2 years and 3 months. After several unfaithful and downright abusive relationships, I can finally say I’ve found my prince charming. The only problem is that he’s black and my mom is pretty racist. (My dad’s out of the picture.) Even as a kid, she told me the rules to dating were “Wait until you’re 16, and no black guys.” I know I should’ve told her from the beginning, but I’ve been so scared. I want to tell her, I’m just not sure how. I feel like the best route might be to wait until they can meet face-to-face and that’s when she’ll learn his race, so he can charm her with his great personality and maybe she’ll approve. But she could ask about his race when I even bring him up. I get an anxiety attack whenever I think about this. She doesn’t know about any of the guys I’ve dated, and I want her to know about him, because this is the most serious a guy has ever been with me. How do I do this?
-My Beautiful Boyfriend and My Racist Mother

Dear My Beautiful Boyfriend,
I don’t think an impromptu meeting without discussing race is going to go over very well. It puts your boyfriend in an uncomfortable position as well as you. If your mother has warned you about not dating black guys and you have never introduced her to a boyfriend, showing up with your black boyfriend may be a double whammy of surprise and unfavorable reaction.

Ask your mother for time to talk face to face. Be open and honest. If you have never discussed past relationships, maybe this is the perfect time to do so. By sharing the difficulties you have faced with abusive relationships, you are giving her more context into your life. I would then turn the table and ask your mother to explain what content of character she values in who you date.


I would then turn the table and ask your mother to explain what content of character she values in who you date.

-Kate

My speculation is that she will most likely list many attributes of your boyfriend. It’s at this time I would tell your mother that he is all of the things she listed. He is also black. Then express to her that you would hope that she would get to know him as a person, and a man of good character, rather than judging him by his skin color.

We don’t know how she will respond, but I would be prepared for both approving or disapproving responses. Tell your mother that her acceptance is important to you and you hope that she chooses to support you. I hope that she comes around.
-Kate

Dear My Beautiful Boyfriend,
You’ve seen the other fish in the sea and it hasn’t been pretty. Your past relationships not only weren’t the right ones, but were painful and unhealthy. Thankfully you have found someone that treats you well and is respectful to you as a partner.

Now only if your mother didn’t have prejudiced and antagonistic beliefs towards a whole race of humans. This is unfortunate, but as reflected by polling done as recently as 2013, isn’t completely uncommon. The good news is that acceptance and support for interracial marriage has risen furiously over the past 50 years and is now upwards of 90%, with a 97% approval by those aged 30 and under.  

For many people it is important for their loved one to be accepted by their family. This can sure make holidays easier and depending on how close you are with your family both emotionally and in proximity, it can make life easier. It will be important for you to acknowledge that while it’s possible that your mother may never accept your partner, the relationship that you and your boyfriend share could be the catalyst to help her open up.

There are many reasons that someone may hold racist beliefs including their influences and experiences growing up as well as a lack of shared experiences with people of other races. The good news is that racist beliefs are malleable to influence, with relationships being a powerful tool. Research shows that when people build connections with people outside of their group and share aspects of their lives together, their beliefs change.


The relationship that you and your boyfriend share could be the catalyst to help her open up.  

-Dr. Ryan

In order to offer your mother the best opportunity to begin building a relationship with your boyfriend, I think it will likely need to start with transparency and honesty on your part. Either on the phone or in person, you should open up to her about your relationship and why you have felt fearful about sharing with her. Share with her about the fear you are feeling even in that moment.

Explain to her about the feelings you have for him and how he has been as a partner to you over these past 2 years. Ask her to accept him for who he is, a loving man in a relationship with her daughter, nothing more and nothing less. If she can’t accept him for that, she can’t accept you for who you really are either.
-Dr. Ryan